The addition of Nowak strengthens Bradley's case
Clearly, U.S. national team interim coach Bob Bradley made a bold move to claim the job permanently even before any of his players kicked a ball.
It wasn't so much the roster Bradley selected for the first training camp of 2007, though his picks reflected an aggressive pursuit of young and untried players. It wasn't even in the choices of players, like goalkeeper Joe Cannon, that showed a marked deviation from the preferences of former coach Bruce Arena.
It was when Peter Nowak's name surfaced as Bradley's new assistant coach that it became obvious that the interim coach does not intend to go gently to his Olympic post.
In the battle to retain his position, Bradley has just begun to fight. Nowak may be the ace he needs to get ahead.
Part of the reason for that is because Nowak was in fact Bradley's legitimate competition for the USMNT appointment. Insiders privy to some of the negotiations revealed that Nowak was indeed a solid candidate in the running who fell just short of the final group of options from which Bradley was plucked for his temporary duty.
The united front of two of the top candidates will no doubt present a tantalizing option to U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati. After all, a twofer is a popular deal worldwide.
In some way, the combination of Nowak and Bradley also works as something of a yin-yang, with each one offering strengths to balance out weaknesses in the other.
For example, Bradley's forte is undoubtedly his long experience with the various levels of the U.S. game. Since he began coaching at 22, Bradley has now, at age 47, spent more than half his life teaching the game. Not surprisingly, he lays claim to more games won in Major League Soccer than any other coach.
Yet what Bradley lacks is a proven record of performance as a soccer player at a top level. While obviously not a vital component for many successful coaches, it is still a plus. In terms of credibility to impressionable players, it's a factor.
This is where Nowak offers the experience of a top international player for both the Polish squad and as a club player for many years both in Germany and Poland. Nowak's success continued when he joined MLS in 1998, when he captained the Chicago Fire to an MLS championship. Having won the MLS Cup with D.C. United in 2004, his first year as a coach, Nowak remains the only person to claim an MLS title as a player and a coach.
Bradley and Nowak also offer contrasting approaches in their coaching styles. Nowak paces the sideline in a suit, while Bradley sticks to his warm-up uniform. Nowak's statements often burst forth emotionally, while Bradley's commentary is more considered and measured.
The passion that Nowak displays is contagious. It was no doubt part of what propelled D.C. United in 2004. It can also be exhausting, however. This season, United won more games than any other team in the league. However, the squad seemed noticeably weary in the second half of the season, losing the majority of their games in that period.
Throughout Bradley's career, he has been known for getting more out of players than many expected, and he is especially notable for his ability to deal with pros that many others find difficult.
While Nowak was miffed when Freddy Adu complained about playing time and benched the young player, Bradley was nonchalant about his own star, Juan Pablo Garcia, who publicly questioned the coach's judgment.
Despite their differences, both coaches share an intense desire to win and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get a victory.
That might be what has led to their latest alliance. Though Nowak and Bradley share the same agent, Ron Waxman, the idea to pool their talents didn't necessarily come from an outside party.
Bradley and Nowak have worked together before, since Bradley was Nowak's coach during his years with the Fire. The trust and cooperation forged between the rookie head coach and the on-field captain led the Fire to great success in 1998.
It could do so again for the U.S. national team.
If the combination proves fruitful, a Bradley-Nowak tandem could offer the USSF what neither man could individually: a more compelling argument for turning to a domestic coaching option.
It's the eternal enticement of getting more bang for one's buck. Even a quality coach from overseas may not be able to compete when compared to this twosome.
The choice of Nowak as an assistant also answers the question that lingered after Bradley's interim appointment. Bradley was offered the national team post in conjunction with the guarantee of the Olympic coaching position as a fallback if he did not win the national team job permanently. Now Bradley has lined Nowak up for the Olympic task, should the scenario of assuming the national team position pan out.
In effect, this trumps the USSF, which has already shown its cards somewhat by an admitted regard for Nowak. Bradley has taken someone that the federation held in enough high esteem to consider for the highest honor and gift-wrapped him as the Olympic coaching option.
Keeping both Bradley and Nowak might also offer the federation an out from facing a possibly troublesome political situation. Should a new foreign coach not care for Bradley's guidance of the Olympic team, the USSF is helpless -- that part of Bradley's job is a promised and done deal.
Presumably, if Bradley stays on as the U.S. senior team coach, he would grant the Olympic duties to his top assistant, Nowak.
After all the stress and disappointment involved with his failure to land Juergen Klinsmann as coach, this buy-one-get-one-free deal may be too good for Gulati to pass up.
Andrea Canales covers MLS and women's college soccer for ESPNsoccernet. She also writes for topdrawersoccer.com, lasoccernews.com and soccer365.com. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.