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Getting sacked gives you Wings

Monday 5th March 2018

Major League Soccer kicked off its 23rd season this weekend. In a move that catered to any numerologists among its fan base, the league also debuted its 23rd franchise. Los Angeles FC journeyed up to Puget Sound to open its inaugural season against two-time defending Western Conference and 2016 MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders. That's akin to the doctor smacking you on the arse with a two-by-four as soon as you enter this world, but the 'Wings' handled it rather well. As did their manager.

You don’t say?

In an interview before putting the first miles on his brand-new-off-the-factory-floor squad, Bob Bradley said he wished Swansea City had never called him. Thursday was St David’s Day, so I suppose the remark can be characterised as a rare bit of Welsh-flavoured understatement. Bradley’s regret is less that he failed than he walked into a no-win situation.

You either go somewhere where people recognize what you're all about, and know that to get it right it's going to take some time. Or you go places where at the end, when the wind starts blowing, everybody gets nervous; everybody's shaking; everybody's covering their own heads; and you know what happens at that moment.

Even though he wishes he had been afforded more time and support, the former USMNT boss has no regrets over taking the job.

If you have second thoughts and doubts you don't go anywhere. I wouldn't have gone to Egypt. I wouldn't have gone to Norway. I'd still be in college soccer.

It didn’t work out for the American at Swansea. Nor did it for his replacement, Paul Clement. 

That is hardly shocking considering the club has a long track record of going through managers in two seasons or less. Only John Hollins, Kenny Jackett, and Roberto Martinez stayed longer since Frank Burrows four-year run in the early 90s. No other Swans boss has overseen a century of matches over that stretch, not even Brendan Rodgers. 

In all, the club has had 21 full-time managers in going on 23 years, including the unusual 2002 co-player/manager set-up featuring Roger Freestone and Nick Cusack. Freestone only lasted six weeks. Cusack held on for six months. 

Swans faithful can continue to disparage Bradley, but their woes existed long before he arrived on the scene. 

Bigger and better things?

Apropos for a team dubbed the Wings, Bradley’s new side got off to a flying start in MLS. Like the Wright Brothers, the flight lasted all of 10 minutes, but that was enough. 

The strike partnership between 29-year-old Carlos Vela and 19-year-old Diego Rossi is much tighter than one would expect after just a few weeks together. They combined in the second minute on a headed cross that traumatised Stefan Frei's right post. On 10 minutes they worked the middle with the elder Mexican pivoting to slide a ball into the young Uruguayan’s path. Rossi buried this one in the far-side netting.

From that point, LA clung to the lead like a baby spider monkey on its mother’s back. Seattle was the emerald green and royal blue jaguar breathing down their necks. Over the full 90, Sounders claimed a 3:2 advantage in possession, won a dozen corners to the Wings’ one, attempted 22 shots to five, put seven on frame, but could not score. LA’s only shot on target was Rossi’s goal.

Not to rub it in the Swansea faithful's faces, but Bradley pulled out a result with a monumentally overmatched XI against a title contending team in his first match with a new club. Maybe he has a point about not being given a chance.

Despite stealing the three points, LAFC is not going to be this season’s Atlanta United. Bradley needs more talent to think about being even a playoff wildcard. Nevertheless, he has moved on from the Swansea debacle and has made an excellent first impression with MLS’ newest team.

Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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