U.S. back Bob Bradley but tight-lipped over alternatives

By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - United States Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati refused on Tuesday to confirm whether he had talked to any other coaches before signing up incumbent Bob Bradley to four more years in the role.

Bradley, who had been linked with the Fulham and Aston Villa vacancies in England's Premier League, inked the new deal on Monday after unconfirmed reports suggested Gulati had met with former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann.

Gulati and Bradley held a teleconference on Tuesday to discuss the new deal, which will extend the coach's contact until after the 2014 World Cup.

"We are here to talk about Bob's appointment as national team coach," Gulati said when asked whether he had talked with Klinsmann, who has a residence in California.

"I'm not going to talk about any conversations we may or may not have had with any other candidates," he added.

Four years ago, following the departure of Bruce Arena, Gulati held talks with Klinsmann over the role but the pair failed to reach agreement and Bradley was handed his chance.

Once again, Gulati, having surveyed his options internationally, has opted for the domestic choice and he said there were advantages to having an American in charge.

"Did we go into any of these situations thinking we will appoint an American coach? The answer is no. Do I think there are some natural advantages to having a coach who understands the American system? The answer is yes," said Gulati.

"That doesn't mean there aren't advantages to having coached in the Premier League or Serie A or having coached in two World Cups or whatever else it might be.

"I don't think there is any doubt that having some knowledge of the American set-up, our league, our player development programs, all of those things, the things that make American young men tick, I think that is a plus," said Gulati, adding that he would not rule out a foreign coach in the future.

Under Bradley the U.S. won the Gold Cup, reached the final of the Confederations Cup, beating European and eventual world champions Spain en route, and finished above England in first place in their group at this year's World Cup finals.

But the Americans fell short of their goal of reaching the last eight when they lost to Ghana in extra-time in their second-round match.

Despite that disappointment, Gulati said Bradley had achieved positive results over the four-year period.

"His record speaks for itself, the level of competition that we have had over the last four years is probably tougher than we have ever had in our history...we played Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Holland, the list goes on," he said.

"We are very pleased that we have been able to work out a four-year extension."

Bradley said he had assessed his options in international club competition after the World Cup but said he had not spoken formally with either Villa or Fulham.

"The respect that we have gained has been significant and that also means there is a great respect internationally for the job done on the coaching side," he said. "It was nice to talk to people in different situations and get a sense of what opportunities exist now or going forward."

But the 52-year-old coach said despite that growing respect Americans still faced a battle to get opportunities abroad.

"(It is) still a challenge for all of us," he said.