Rustenburg: When the U.S. team got back to the Irene Country Lodge after the big win over Algeria, players and staff were greeted by family and friends. For a brief moment, Bob Bradley got to savor a victory.
"The saddest part is that sometimes the game no sooner ends and you're just thinking about the next game," the U.S. coach said on Friday on the eve of the World Cup second-round match against Ghana.
Bradley often appears to be humorless, a portrayal he rejects. Perhaps it's because he's often seen with arms crossed, his piercing blue eyes focused on the field, or with an arm pointed at a player as he shouts an instruction.
\"The saddest part is that sometimes the game no sooner ends and you\'re just thinking about the next game,\" he said.
He compared himself to a well-known NFL coach, saying his mind races too much during games to appreciate them.
"If I watch the Patriots play, I don't know if Bill Belichick is enjoying himself," he said of the New England coach who led his team to three Super Bowl titles. "He's thinking about the game. He's trying to be a step ahead of whatever happens."
The 52-year-old former coach of Ohio University, Princeton, the Chicago Fire, MetroStars and Chivas USA prepares with obsessive attention to detail and is a creature of routine. Oddly, he says the World Cup is no different from him in his job than last year's Confederations Cup.
"We understand that around the world there's much more interest this time around, but from the standpoint of the competition last year, of the preparation, of the work, of the enjoyment of watching other games, that part if exactly the same," he said.
Bradley was hired as interim coach in December 2006, and Juergen Klinsmann withdrew from lengthy negotiations that would have had him replace Bruce Arena, who was let go after the first-round exit that June. Bradley wasn't given the job on a permanent basis until May 2007, following exhibition wins over Denmark, Mexico and Ecuador and a draw against Guatemala.
"He's definitely the right guy. I think he's shown that over the last four years," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "Bob Bradley, he doesn't change his stripes for anybody or any reason. He's been successful and he's brought all those qualities into this team to help make us successful."
According to players, his image is exactly the way he is in the closed confines of the locker room. It was somewhat surprising when they saw him react after Landon Donovan's injury-time goal against Algeria — although Bradley said he refrained from running to join players celebrating at the corner flag, even as some of his staff did.
"You don't see a lot of emotion from Bob," forward Jozy Altidore said. "I saw replays — I saw him jumping around, so I was pretty happy to see that just because he doesn't smile a lot. He's very serious. He's very focused all the time, which is great for us, because you need somebody that's kind of the rock of a team, and I think he does that very well."
Bradley has managed the tricky situation of integrating his son into the team, and Michael has become a regular starter in a defensive midfield role.
"It's the credibility within the group of how we do things, who's on the field, who's not," the father said. "When we're at work, there's nothing more than that. That comes first."
Bradley's wife, Lindsay, and Peter Nowak, a former assistant, have reminded him that Bradley can't be all work all the time. Sometimes, he has to let go. It's a lesson that's been hard for him to learn.
Bradley spoke Friday night of what he called the Peter Nowak Rule.
"Now there would be times that we would have a good win, but I could still see things that weren't as good as they needed to be, and I was already thinking if we don't improve on that, then the next games it's going to be," Bradley said, interrupting himself.
"And Peter once said to me, 'Look, we've all worked hard. We've all now accomplished something today. If you have things in your mind, that's great. It's important for us. But for the moment, let us enjoy it.'"