After a frenzy of speculation surrounding the identity of Bruce Arena's successor, it was Bob Bradley, largely unknown abroad but a shrewd, astute long-time servant of Major League Soccer, who found himself thrust into the international spotlight .
With his inaugural training camp underway and a first win under his belt with a 3-1 win over Denmark back on 20 January, the new boss is now staring down the barrel of a tense showdown with arch-rivals Mexico in Phoneix, Arizona on 7 February.
The ten-year managerial veteran of MLS and three-time coach of the year sat down for an exclusive chat with FIFA.com ahead of the much-anticipated border-derby in Phoenix, Arizona.
FIFA.com: Tell us, how did it feel to be handed the reins of the US national team?
Bob Bradley: It's an honour. I think coaches all around the world think the same way about how much it means to take charge of their national team. It is something very special.
What differences have you observed coaching a national team as compared to a club side?
The big difference is that a national team is not together every day and that makes for a big challenge. Everyone who's done both jobs talks about the challenges of building a group and a cohesive unit without being together every day on the pitch and I think the key is trying to make the most out of every session and every training camp. You have to build the right kind of mentality when you get the team together and you need to find a way to communicate with the players.
How much is your experience of working with American players in MLS helping you in the job?
It helps that I have a personal relationship with a lot of the guys I will be dealing with. In some cases I have worked with them at an early age. I have seen a lot of them grow up and some have gone onto success overseas. I want to build on that. I know that all players need to be challenged and I will make sure that all of these players realise that success with the national team is the main goal - and that they all respect what it means to play for the United States.
Following in the footsteps of your good friend Bruce Arena must be a daunting task.
It's a big part of the honour of being the US national team coach for me. His work over the last eight years has led to some of the greatest successes this country has ever known. There are so many people in this country at youth, amateur, University and professional level that work so hard to build the game up. And now to take the baton from Bruce makes me feel like I have a responsibility to do right by all those people.
Did he give you any advice?
Yeah, we talked. He gave me some sense of the different challenges and what was very important to me was, at the end of the conversation, he said to me: 'You're the right man for the job'. That meant a lot.
It has been well documented that you were not the first choice for the job and that a deal between the US Soccer Federation and Jurgen Klinsmann broke down at the 11th hour. Do you see the next few months as an opportunity to make the job your own?
Every coach has a way of working. I enjoy establishing an inside trust in the team and making sure everyone is challenged and everyone works together. I am looking forward to doing that with the national team. The next phase will include looking at the younger generation of players and working on some transition. With guys like Eddie Pope, Claudio Reyna and Brian McBride calling time on their careers, there are opportunities to bring some fresh blood into the team. Also we have a very important younger group of players, like DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan, who are still young, but have competed in two World Cups. It will be my job to make sure these younger players know that it's time for them to step up and take over the leadership roles.
Do you feel the younger players can step into these types of roles without too much trouble?
I have confidence that some of the younger guys are ready to step up. They are ready for more responsibility. Players around the world want to play in the national team but that's not enough for the really good ones. They need to move on and see things differently, realise how special it is to play for a national team. The challenge of winning something on the international level like the World Cup is what all the great players must aspire to. We know that we are capable and we need to build on the progress made in the last eight years.
Do you think more American players need to start going abroad, or is MLS enough to prepare a team for international success?
Every player has to make his own decision. There is not just one avenue for success. I have seen situations where a player in MLS is a big player in his team and is counted on and therefore he grows on the job and feels the pressure of making a difference and I've also seen situations in MLS where a player needs a new challenge. If you go to Europe you have to handle it well and improve, but some guys get there and all of a sudden they think they've accomplished everything and they don't have the same hunger they needed to get there. Sometimes they don't treat the national team the way they should. At the end of the day, players need to always know that representing their country is the ultimate honour.
It seems you are already 'shaking things up' by bringing in new players and experimenting with tactics?
These are the things that need to be at the foundation, I will never stick with the status quo. Tough decisions will be made.
Jay Demerit has never been to a US camp, but is making a mark in the English Premiership with Watford. Will he get his chance under your regime?
Players that now make their mark need to be considered. I won't commit today to saying he will be brought in, but I know he's a player that we need to keep watching and it will be important for him to get his chance in a national team camp, he's earned that much.
What is the major strength of the archetypal American player?
The stock answer is that Americans have a good competitive mentality. You hear that a lot. But that doesn't mean that that mentality can't still be improved. When you look at teams that consistently compete to win the World Cup there are players that have such strong mentalities and strong commitment. We must continue to get our best players to understand that they can always improve.
The US will play Mexico in Arizona on 7 February. How thrilling is it to get a chance to be involved in such an enduring rivalry?
All players and coaches get excited about the USA-Mexico rivalry. We are neighbours and we have gotten to the point on the pitch where the games are competitive, passionate and there's a lot at stake. I know that all of us will want to represent the USA the right way on that day.