U.S. national team Coach Bob Bradley during an exhibition against Colombia. (Michael Perez / Associated…)
Bob Bradley, who coached the U.S. men's soccer team into the second round at the World Cup in South Africa last summer, might try to do the same thing or better at the Olympic Games in London in 2012.
On Wednesday, the opening day of the national team's January camp at the Home Depot Center, Bradley said taking charge of the American Olympic squad is something that is of interest to him.
"It is, it just has to fit with everything that we do," he said. "The reason that it is [appealing] is that we've put a lot of time into trying to connect our different teams, and any chance to work with players [before] you get them with the full team, that's important."
For the Beijing Games in 2008, Bradley selected then-assistant coach Peter Nowak to take charge of the Olympic team, but London 2012 might be a different story.
"We'll see how it plays out, but it's certainly a hot topic" of speculation, Bradley said.
Bradley, 52, arrived in camp on crutches, having had recent surgery on his right knee. "It's an old knee, so it needed to be cleaned out," he said. "Old is the key word."
Actually, "young" was the key word in Carson on Wednesday. The 24 players invited into the camp have made only 28 national team appearances combined. Half of them have never played for the U.S.
Among the 24 are six players — forwards Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury, midfielders Brek Shea, Anthony Wallace and Mikkel Diskerud and goalkeeper Sean Johnson — who are age-eligible for the Olympic soccer tournament, which is limited to players 23 and younger, with three exceptions allowed.
"Part of the thinking in this camp, for sure, was looking at guys that are Olympic age-eligible," Bradley said. "The qualification for the Olympics won't be until February or March [of 2012]. You can do some things early, but at the end of this MLS season they'll need to be starting to put the group together.
"There'll need to be some work in January and February [of 2012] to prepare for the qualifying, and then hopefully we'll be in London with a good team."
Three Galaxy players — defenders A.J. DeLaGarza, Sean Franklin and Omar Gonzalez — are in camp, along with Chivas USA forward Justin Braun.
Gonzalez said getting to London would be a dream.
"I would love to play in the Olympics," he said. "Any athlete's dream is to play there. When it does come around, I hope to be playing at the top of my game so maybe I can be one of the veteran defenders."
For the moment, though, the U.S. players are focusing on the season's first game — against Chile in Carson on Jan. 22.
"January is always a chance for us to start the process with some guys that we've seen play in MLS but haven't always had the chance to work with," Bradley said. "But now as you move from one level to the next there's little soccer things that just need to continue to get better and better."