Bob Bradley '80 always used to tell his Princeton players that it wasn't so important how a team looked at the beginning of the season so long as they were working to become a good team at the end of the year.
This week Bradley will again have the opportunity to emphasize that philosophy to a group of players gathered together for the first time when he begins his journey as head coach of the Major League Soccer's newly formed Chicago Fire.
Bradley, who stepped down two years ago as the Tigers' head coach to become an assistant with D.C. United of MLS, will begin preliminary workouts today in Chicago before official MLS spring training kicks off in Orlando on Feb. 6.
"We used to say you enjoy the process of becoming a good team," Bradley said Saturday from his home in Virginia. "Really that type (of developing) is the same on all levels."
Starting from scratch
Using a roster comprised of only 13 players now and that will only be finalized on Feb. 1, Chicago will draw heavily on Bradley's coaching faculties as it tries to put a competitive team on the field for its inaugural season.
But Bradley was known for his motivational skills while amassing a 92-80-15 record and making three trips to the NCAA tournament in 12 years at Princeton. Few doubt that Bradley can make a good team out of whatever roster he ends up with.
"He put a lot of responsibility upon us because he treated us like professionals," said senior midfielder Jamie Adams, who played under Bradley for two years. "Everyone responded to that style.
"I can't wait to see how he does with his own (professional) team."
Already the Fire bears some resemblance to a Princeton team under Bradley. Bradley picked up Andrew Lewis '98 from New York/New Jersey in the November expansion draft and acquired Jesse Marsh '96 in a recent trade with the United.
Bradley is also a more experienced coach than he was two years ago after his time in Washington under United head coach and close friend Bruce Arena. Arena, who worked with Bradley at Virginia and with the 1996 Olympic team, had Bradley at his side as he built his talented D.C. squad. It has become the best team in the league over the last two seasons, capturing the first two MLS Cup titles.
Working with the United from their inception also gave Bradley an inside look at how a team evolves from scratch. Bradley has worked tirelessly over the last several months to do the same. Since being named coach Oct. 30, he has traveled extensively through Mexico and Europe.
So far Bradley has signed one international player, 33-year old Polish National Team Captain Piotr Nowak, and used the expansion draft to pick up a talented defender in former Los Angeles Galaxy star Danny Peña.
Both talent and tactical skill will be required of the Fire in a town that knows its soccer. But if Chicago's players are willing to respond to Bradley as Princeton players once did, the city will have a team worth watching even in its first year in the league.