Bob Bradley now in hot water? 

June, 12, 2011

The national team's worst loss in recent memory puts plenty of heat on U.S. coach Bob Bradley.

It was only one game, which American players, coaches and suits will surely remind us in the coming days. And they're right: The Gold Cup isn't over for the U.S. following Saturday's stunning 2-1 loss to Panama. If history is any indication, the Yanks will rebound against Guadeloupe on Tuesday, they remain a favorite to reach the final and certainly can still win the whole thing. (The morning after the upset, most bookies were giving odds of 2-1.) If Bradley manages to reclaim the regional crown he won in 2007, all will be forgiven. Question is, will it be forgotten?

Saturday's defeat is clearly the worst of Bradley's four-year reign. It was the program's first in Gold Cup group play, and perhaps its worst overall since a 1-0 upset against Bermuda 20 years ago. Incidentally, that result cost another Bob -- Bob Gansler, who'd led the U.S. at the World Cup the previous year -- his job.

And though Bradley has met or exceeded all of U.S. Soccer's public expectations in his tenure so far -- winning the '07 Gold Cup, making the title game of the 2009 Confederations Cup, finishing atop World Cup qualifying, winning the Yanks' World Cup group -- the Panama loss reopens speculation about the coach's future.

Such speculation was already in the air before the tournament, so much so that U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati gave Bradley a vote of confidence in the New York Times after the Spain friendly.

After the Panama match, Bradley's vocal critics -- and they aren't limited to the angry fans bombarding message boards -- have been handed live ammunition. The shots started flying immediately following the game, with three-time U.S. World Cup vet Marcelo Balboa calling for Bradley's head on an MLS broadcast.

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.