LOS ANGELES — Bob Bradley stepped onto the dusty concrete roof deck of the Banc of California Stadium and marveled for a long moment at the sweeping view of downtown Los Angeles in the summer sunshine.
Los Angeles Football Club’s stadium will be finished in the spring, and Bradley will lead the MLS expansion franchise onto its new grass field. Figuring out the details of the next eight months is a thrilling prospect for the veteran coach tasked with building a team worthy of this club’s sky-high ambitions.
“I’ve got an idea that there’s a chance here to do something good, something special,” Bradley said Friday. “I have a vision of what I want football to look like, and I’m driven to take all of my experiences and ideas and put them into action.”
LAFC formally introduced Bradley in the rotunda of the Natural History Museum, which sits in the same park as the soccer stadium currently well into construction on the former site of the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Dozens of hard-core fans of this player-less team chanted from the rotunda’s second-story balcony, serenading the coach with chants of “Bob the Builder, yes he can!”
Bradley has been in contact with LAFC general manager John Thorrington — his former player with the U.S. national team — for the past year, during which Bradley was hired and fired by Swansea City. The coach had never set foot on the Banc of California Stadium site until team President Tom Penn led him on a tour after his news conference.
“To stand in the middle of that field, to go all the way up top and look down to downtown, I was just blown away,” Bradley said after removing his hard hat. “It’s got all the aspects that a club needs to build a relationship with a city, and I can’t wait to be a part of that process.”
Bradley already has an idea of the scope of the job facing him with MLS’ 23rd franchise. While Thorrington hasn’t signed any first-team players, its impressive marketing campaign has already captured the soccer world’s attention and attracted the beginnings of a fan base in the nation’s second-largest city.
But Bradley has done it before: He coached the expansion Chicago Fire to an MLS title in their first season nearly 20 years ago. MLS has changed dramatically in the ensuing years, and Bradley hasn’t coached in the league since leaving Chivas USA in 2006 to take over the U.S. national team.
“Bob Bradley is a clear statement of our intent to be a club that wins things,” Thorrington said. “Everybody in this game, everybody in MLS, knows what he has accomplished, and we’ve got big things to accomplish together.”
Although his tenure as the first American to lead a Premiership team was brief, Bradley remains a respected soccer mind with a long history of improving teams from Egypt to Norway.
He was sought by other franchises, but Bradley was fascinated by LAFC’s deep-pocketed ownership, its confident aspirations toward continental dominance, and the prospect of “that blank whiteboard” in his new office in Los Angeles, waiting to be filled with players and strategies of his choosing.
“I came out of Swansea more motivated and more excited than ever to find a club where my vision, my passion, my ideas of how to do things would fit with what that club would be about,” Bradley said. “In a perfect world, there would be some big things that would happen quickly.”