NEW YORK -- Looking ahead to the 2010 World Cup, Bob Bradley told American soccer players about the 1980 team -- the U.S. Olympic hockey team. "Unless you were a true hockey aficionado, no one knew any of those players' names before the Olympics. But after the team had success, everybody knew all their names," he said. "We must become a real team. We must value the time when we're together. We must get to know each other. We must challenge each other. We must step on the field and play collectively with belief in what we're trying to do." Five months after he became interim coach of the U.S. national team, Bradley was given a contract Wednesday through December 2010. Now comes the tough part: qualifying the United States for the 2010 World Cup and leading the Americans to success in South Africa. He has set a new tone following Bruce Arena, whose eight-year term was known for unprecedented success but also for public comments that antagonized his bosses, players and Major League Soccer at times. "In team sports in the U.S., we haven't been as successful of late, and in some ways, that's because we've gotten to the point where we spend so much time focusing on the individuals before they've accomplished anything as a team that I believe it sometimes hurts," Bradley said at a news conference. He cited the example of Italy's World Cup championship team last year. "You have players that compete against each other competitively week in and week out, but throughout that event, they were blood brothers," Bradley said. "We must develop that type of identity." Although Arena coached the Americans to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, he was let go after last year's first-round elimination. The 49-year-old Bradley is a former coach of Princeton and of Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire, MetroStars and Chivas USA teams. "He's, I would say, a little stricter for lack of a better word. He's a little more old-school than Bruce was," U.S. forward Landon Donovan said. "But as far as understanding players and understanding the league, they're fairly similar. And they know when to push hard and when not to push." The room in which the news conference was held at a Manhattan hotel was half-filled, and many of the people in it were soccer executives. Originally, the U.S. Soccer Federation had hoped to hire former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann, who would have raised the sport's profile in the United States. Those talks broke off in December, and Bradley was hired as interim coach Dec. 8. Under Bradley, the Americans have gone 3-0-1, all in exhibition games. "Since I've been involved in the national team program and gotten to know Bob, I have known that Bob someday would, could and should coach our national team," USSF president Sunil Gulati said. "Not once until two weeks ago when I raised the subject did Bob ask about the interim title." Although Arena made Claudio Reyna the permanent captain soon after he was hired, Bradley told players he intends to rotate the post. Donovan, Jimmy Conrad and Pablo Mastroeni filled the position in Bradley's games thus far. "We've talked about what it means to be a captain, and that, again, is something that needs to be earned," Bradley said. "If there's a time when it makes sense to have a permanent captain, then we may go in that direction." Back in December, Bradley also was appointed the Under-23 coach as the Americans try to qualify for the 2008 Olympics. He might turn that task over to Peter Nowak and Mike Sorber, who have been his assistants with the national team. World Cup qualifying doesn't start until the middle of 2008, but Bradley does have two big tournaments coming up -- the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the Copa America. He said only a handful of players will be on the roster for both. Though Bradley has concentrated on the soccer aspects of his job, he's gradually realized it also entails selling the sport to the American public. "Smiling sometimes is important," he said. "I haven't thrown out any great jokes, but every now and then I may try."
Bradley updated the goalkeeping situation. Tim Howard probably won't play in both tournaments, and Kasey Keller will be part of the mix. So, MLS goalkeepers will be tested. Bradley said Marcus Hahnemann needed the summer off but will remain in the player pool. ... Bradley continues to work on learning Spanish.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press