Soccer-LAFC's Bradley ready for familiar challenge in MLS return

March 1 (Reuters) - Bob Bradley is the only man to lead a first-year Major League Soccer team to a championship and the former United States coach will try to duplicate that rare feat with expansion club Los Angeles FC this season.

Bradley made the most of his first professional coaching job when he won an MLS Cup with the Chicago Fire in 1998 and now hopes to deliver on the hype and fanfare surrounding the North American league's 23rd team.

While Bradley faces more pressure this time, having gained vast experience across the globe, the coach who was at the helm of the U.S. team that reached the knockout stage of the 2010 World Cup is not changing his strategy.

"My starting point is to try to make a good team. Once you feel like you are going in that direction then obviously you see what the final goals are," Bradley said on a conference call.

"When we started out in Chicago I don't think on Day One we were thinking about winning an MLS Cup, but at some point as we got started we realized we had a good team.

"And when we had a good team then we felt like we were a team that could win everything."


Bradley was last on North American touchlines as manager of the U.S., where he had a successful four-year run until a loss to Mexico in the 2011 Gold Cup final resulted in him being relieved of his national team duties.

At the time, Bradley was criticized by many for being too conservative and for coaching a U.S. team that too often had to catch up using fitness rather than tactical awareness.

Bradley went on to coach Egypt, clubs in Norway and France and then in 2016 became the first American to manage an English Premier League team after joining Swansea City. The Welsh club fired him less than three months after he took charge.

Bradley, who turns 60 on Saturday, will face a tough test right out of the gate in his MLS return as his squad open their season on Sunday against a Seattle Sounders team that won the MLS Cup in 2016 and lost in the final a year later.

But after draws against reigning champions Toronto, New York City and Vancouver followed by a win over second-tier Sacramento Republic in their pre-season finale, Bradley said his LA squad was raring to go.

"We feel like we've gone as far in pre-season as we can," said Bradley. "Now we need real games to get a better sense as to how we stack up with different teams in MLS.

"And then as we go along and continue to improve and build our roster, hopefully we are in position to do some very good things." (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)

03/01/2018 15:00

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