LOS ANGELES – Bob Bradley has received a welcome message of support from one of his most senior players as the debate over his future rages on.
Bradley's position as USA's head coach came under its most serious scrutiny yet after the national team squandered a two-goal lead before losing 4-2 to Mexico in the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup last Saturday, piling more pressure onto the under-fire boss.
U.S. Soccer chief Sunil Gulati has made no public comment on Bradley's situation and the 53-year-old looks to have held on to his job for now, but fan opinion continues to swing against him.
However, veteran forward Clint Dempsey came out strongly in support of Bradley this week, telling Yahoo! Sports that any change of leadership would be a mistake.
"It is important that people have to remember that Bob has done a good job," Dempsey said. "Since he took over we have won one Gold Cup and made the final of another, we got to the final of the Confederations Cup and won our group at the World Cup.
"It is understandable that people always want more and always want every step to be a forward one, and of course we want that too as players. But soccer doesn't always work like that. You take steps forward and back but as long as you are moving in the right direction you are good. I think we are going the right way. You don't want to only look at one result or one game; that's a dangerous thing to do.
"He is the right guy and I hope people can start to appreciate that."
Under Bradley, Dempsey has developed into one of the USA's most influential international players, continuing to go from strength to strength for his English Premier League team Fulham.
Now 28, he may be entering his prime and will certainly be a valuable member of the national team's plans ahead of the start of the World Cup qualifying cycle next year. Over the past two years Dempsey has become established as an integral part of the team's core leadership group, with the confidence to speak out on thorny issues that others might avoid. Landon Donovan, for example, brushed aside questions about Bradley following the Mexico game.
"There are a lot of positives things that Bob has helped us develop that aren't necessarily noticeable if you are on the outside but that you are aware of if you spend any time in this team," added Dempsey, speaking at an event organized by the Modelo Soccer Experience, which offers fans the chance to win tickets and travel to any club soccer match around the world.
"We have good commitment and fighting spirit and we are together as a group. That is important. It doesn't matter how good your players are if that spirit is not there then you are not going to get far.
"That is the job of the coach, to create an environment where that is allowed to grow. Once you have that for a long period of time, then you have a chance to build something."
Dempsey will take time off before rejoining Fulham ahead of the new EPL season, where the west London club will be led by new manager Martin Jol. Jol will be Dempsey's fifth boss in less than five seasons with Fulham, but hopes are high that the new man can carry on from where Mark Hughes left off.
Dempsey's international duties with the USA continue with some friendly matches later this year, before the long-winded World Cup qualifying format gets underway next summer.