Steven Cherundolo to be named LAFC’s new head coach, replacing Bob Bradley
When LAFC lured Steve Cherundolo home from Germany to coach its affiliate team in the second-tier USL Championship last year, the offer came with a promise: If the team were ever in the market for a first-team coach, the job would be Cherundolo’s to lose.
On Monday LAFC will make good on that promise by announcing the former national team defender will replace Bob Bradley, becoming the second manager in franchise history.
“It was always part of the plan,” said John Thorrington, LAFC co-president and general manager. “This was always part of a potential succession plan. Exactly when it would materialize was unknown when he came. But it was not just happenstance.”
Cherundolo, a teammate of Thorrington’s with the U.S. national team, spent his club career in Germany, making a U.S.-record 302 Bundesliga appearances in a 15-year career that ended in 2014.
Research establishes that German and British soldiers played soccer on the Western Front during a famed World War I Christmas truce.
At 42, Cherundolo is the seventh-youngest manager in MLS and one of 15 who never played in the league. But managing a first-division team is something he began aiming for before he retired as a player and began a lengthy internship during which he coached in the development programs at both Hannover and Stuttgart, with the German and U.S. national teams and finally last winter with the Las Vegas Lights.
“I started way down in youth development and worked my way up so I could learn from the bottom up and learn how to build and better my methodology and my philosophy,” Cherundolo said. “It’s been a long road to this point but an extremely valuable one for me and I’m very happy with the result.”
Las Vegas went 6-23-3 and finished last in the eight-team Pacific Division standings last season under Cherundolo, but the team’s first year as an LAFC affiliate gave Cherundolo a chance to work closely with many of the young players who could play important roles in 2022.
“The objective was different,” he said. “The premier goal we focused on was developmental. And we did a great job of that.”
Although LAFC will open training camp in two weeks missing nearly a dozen players from last year, Cherundolo says he expects to play a possession-oriented, attacking style like the one the club used to great success under Bradley.
“We want to be able to score and create chances and beat teams,” he said. “We are accustomed to a way of playing in L.A. and a lot of that will be similar, with some subtle changes.”
But Bradley, 63, whose energy and huge personality left a mark on LAFC, will be a tough act to follow. He led the team to three playoff appearances, a Supporters’ Shield and to the final of the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League in the team’s first three years, one of the most successful runs for an expansion team in MLS history. Injuries and inconsistency last season led LAFC to a 12-13-9 record and missing the postseason for the first time. Two weeks later, Bradley took the job at Toronto FC, reuniting with his son Michael Bradley, the team’s longtime captain.
All four of Bradley’s top assistants remain with LAFC although Cherundolo said it’s uncertain how many will be there when camp opens.
“We will be finalizing talks and speaking to one another in the coming days to figure all that out,” he said.