Bradley Tales Span Decades

Former Cosmos player Shep Messing leads the audience in chants of "Gor-don Brad-ley!" followed by rhythmic claps.
Former Cosmos player Shep Messing leads the audience in chants of "Gor-don Brad-ley!" followed by rhythmic claps. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
Buy Photo
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 10, 2008

The scope of Gordon Bradley's influence on American soccer was visible yesterday in the audience at a memorial service at George Mason University's Center for the Arts.

From the 1960s, there were colleagues who had welcomed Bradley from his native England and watched him embark on a career that would take him from the playing fields and sidelines to the front office and broadcast booth. From the 1970s, there were the former players from the New York Cosmos and Washington Diplomats of the North American Soccer League, and the U.S. national team, which he guided for one year.

From the '80s to the current era, there were college coaching rivals and athletic directors, as well as pupils from George Mason, the semipro Washington Stars and his Northern Virginia youth camps.

"Gordon was a wonderful presence of a guy who was an apostle of the sport and who instilled people with a love for soccer," said Chuck Blazer, general secretary of CONCACAF, which oversees the game in the North and Central American and Caribbean region. "He was part of the engine that grew our sport for almost a half-century."

Bradley, who lived in the Washington area for 30 years, died last week in Manassas after suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He was 74.

Martin Dunphy, a former George Mason goalkeeper from Ireland, flew overseas for the service. He shared old stories with Sam Sumo, a high-scoring, Liberian-born teammate.

"His greatness was in the consistency of his message," Dunphy said. "He had a belief in people, no matter how talented. He would always look you in the eye and engage you. You could always talk to him. I never saw him get angry -- disappointed, but not angry. He was a real man."

Dan Wood, a former top money winner on the PGA Senior Tour, remembered coaching against Bradley in the NASL. "He was great to young American coaches like me," Wood said. "Here was this distinguished, English coach who didn't look down his nose on anyone. To him, everyone was equal."

Former Cosmos Werner Roth and Shep Messing fought back tears on stage as they told funny and touching tales to a couple hundred mourners. The service had been scheduled to take place at George Mason's soccer stadium, where Bradley coached for 16 seasons, but heavy rain forced it to be relocated. Bradley is the most successful coach in Patriots history, guiding the program to a 183-113-35 record and six NCAA tournament appearances. His final year was 2000.

Bradley's most famous players -- Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff -- were not able to attend, but sent condolences to Bradley's wife of 49 years, Vera, and sons Paul and Doug.

Messing, the flashy goalie who epitomized the Cosmos' phenomenon in the 1970s, led the audience in chants of "Gor-don Brad-ley!" followed by rhythmic claps.

Vocalist David Troup offered a powerful rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone," a song from the Broadway show "Carousel" that has been adopted as a soccer anthem in Europe.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company