Bradley welcoming more USMNT responsibility ahead of second World Cup

Michael Bradley

photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

From a physical standpoint, Michael Bradley has not changed all that much over the last four years. From a mental standpoint, there is a subtle but noticeable difference.

Bradley is in his second consecutive World Cup preparatory camp in which he is a key figure for the U.S. Men’s National Team, but the weight of responsibility that is currently on the midfielder’s shoulders is much bigger than that of 2010. Bradley was indeed an integral part to the success of the 2010 squad that made it to the Round of 16 in South Africa, but now he is the player that many fans and experts see as the creme de la creme on the U.S. squad and the one that has to deliver a strong World Cup campaign in order to ensure that the Americans make it out of a difficult Group G that also includes Ghana, Germany and Portugal.

The 26-year-old Bradley knows very well that he has those expectations placed on him ahead of next month’s tournament in Brazil, and he is more than up for the challenge to meet and surpass them.

“I embrace it, absolutely,” Bradley told reporters in Stanford, Calif. on Friday. “To be a big player, to be a player that is counted on by coaches, by his teammates, to make a difference, to make plays, to be a leader, that motivates me. The challenge of all that is something that excites me and I try to do that in any team that I’m in.”

Bradley has always been a team-first kind of player and one that accepts all changes. That has not changed. What has become different, however, is his outlook on his standing within the U.S. setup.

He knows he now bears more responsibility as a veteran midfielder who has more than proven his worth at the club level and has World Cup experience to boot. In fact, Bradley and Maurice Edu are the only players listed as midfielders on the U.S.’s 30-man preliminary squad that have previously played in the tournament.

That makes the Toronto FC midfielder even more important as head coach Jurgen Klinsmann puts his team through the rigors of the preparatory camp. Bradley is now a player most – if not all the squad – looks to for leadership and guidance and he does not shy away from that.

Instead, he cherishes it.

“I sure dreamed of it,” said Bradley of being one of the top players on the U.S. “It was always what I thought about, always what I wanted. Look, I’m incredibly lucky and honored to be a part of this team, to be where I am and, trust me, nothing gets taken for granted.”

Bradley’s all but guaranteed a starting spot in the World Cup this summer. Klinsmann constantly refers to Bradley as one of the members that makes up the spine of the U.S., a stark difference from where Bradley was when Klinsmann first took over the U.S. program in 2011.

Back then, Bradley was not a shoo-in in Klinsmann’s lineups and he even missed out one of the German manager’s first camps due to a lack of playing time at the club level. But Bradley showed character, worked hard and made his way back into the squad and ultimately the starting lineup with a steady dose of strong performances.

That still did not stop some observers from recently questioning how effective he might be this summer after it was made public that Bradley would undergo a procedure on his foot in late April, but Bradley eased those fears on Friday.

“It was an injection. I don’t know where the procedure first [came from], who used that word first,” said Bradley. “We all know how these things go, but it was just a little injection that had been scheduled for a while. Physically, I feel fit and sharp and really as good as I’ve felt.”

With health not an issue, Bradley’s sights are currently set on enjoying a strong camp and then helping the U.S. navigate its way out of its challenging group. He will not only have to deliver impactful performances to do so, but also plenty of leadership to a U.S. squad with its fair share of players lacking World Cup experience.

He’s more than ready for that.

“As an older guy, as somebody who’s been through it before, certainly you want to be a strong presence,” said Bradley. “You want to be somebody who guys can look to and feed off of.”

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93 Responses to Bradley welcoming more USMNT responsibility ahead of second World Cup

  1. a says:

    he will have a great World Cup.

    don’t be surprised he ends up in the All Star Team of the tournament

    • Lorenzo says:

      It wouldn’t be shocking, but let’s be honest, there are gobs of good players who will probably play well. Many good players won’t make the cut. But it would be great if he makes it.

    • Bach's Thumb says:

      If Michael Bradley comes anywhere near the World Cup Best XI, I will eat my shorts.

      • Jesse D says:

        interesting. Remember Claudio Reyna made that list in 2002. Bradley seems to be on par with where Reyna was at the time.

        • Larry says:

          Yes, but it will require the US to progress to the knockouts for him to be in the best 11, regardless of how well he plays.

          • Jesse D says:

            The flip side of that statement: If he plays well enough to deserve it, then the US will be in the knock rounds.

      • Leo says:

        Do you like your shorts with salt or pepper? I’ll FedEx them to you.

        • Matt says:

          Ahhh, let him put some Sweet Baby Ray’s Sauce on them!

          Cuz they might just be DIRTY…..

      • Scott says:

        You clearly don’t know the difference between a pitch and a baseball diamond… not only is Bradley a starter, but he is BY FAR our best and most indispensable player. Indeed, the only player who MIGHT have been better than Bradley at one time is Donovan 4 years ago. Apart from Donovan, Bradley is our best player EVER.

    • t says:

      If he does that will mean the US went far, as with Reyna in 2002.

    • duke says:

      If anybody from the US makes the all start team it would probably be Mikey but it the TEAM tanks and goes 3 and out… hard to see anybody from the US picked

    • Rob says:

      That’s funny. He couldn’t make the all star team at Roma much less at the WC

      • User222 says:

        because the italians are haters… dont trust Americans

        • arsenal says:

          Or some were more talented. He is a great player, but people are doing what others did to Donovan. Putting them on a pedestal is not a great idea.

        • OMGnoEJ says:

          The Italians at Chievo seemed to like their American well enough.

      • Jesse D says:

        Bradley was very good at Roma, but Strootman and Rossi are two of the best in the world as well. Netherlands will completely change their tactics with Strootman injured.

      • malkin says:

        Let’s not denigrate Bradley’s time at Roma…When he wasn’t busy recovering from injuries sustained with the national team he was splitting time with the other midfielders pretty much evenly. That’s also why the coach was pretty shocked when he left because he “didn’t feel valuable.”

        • Ali Dia says:

          Yup… not to mention it’s not like Roma lit it up after he left. He was a valued player, and one who might well have been offered a raise had TFC not offered such a massive pay increase as part of the transfer. After Strootman went down, I’m sure Garcia wondered if there wasn’t some solution they could have offered to convince him to stay.

          • Charley says:

            I think the move to TFC will bode very very well for the Nats in Brazil. He may be playing against only decent if not sub par competition, but he is in a role where he plays every minuet and constantly has to make every player around him better, exactly what he will have to do in June. He will have better players surrounding him then at TFC, unfortunately he will be playing against way better competition. Praying for a miracle into the next round. I watched it in 1980 on ice, now lets have one on grass.

  2. a says:

    though i really wish he had stayed at Roma.

    you just know with a great world cup performance he could be off to a bigger club. Not Barca or Madrid but maybe a Napoli or a Schalke or a Monaco. He has the talent and the thive

    • Landy Cakes says:

      Monaco is not a bigger club.

      • Nihal says:

        In what world is Monaco not bigger than TFC?

        • Jesse D says:

          It is not bigger than Roma where he was.

        • Diego's Maradoughnuts says:

          Roma are wildly overrated a “big club”. Monaco are a bit of a sham, of course, and hopefully FFP and Ligue 1 will rein them in (particularly as relates to the tax advantage) but there is very little to suggest that Roma are somehow “bigger” at this point. Even without the new ownership Monaco has at least contested a CL final in the last decade, and can afford to bid on top talent (for now).

          Roma are a selling club with a terminally deserted stadium and a history of inconsistent participation (and occasionally embarrassing failure) in Europe. They have three Serie A titles in their history, and none in the past 13 years. Usually, they are out of the hunt by Christmas.

          Unlike the current Monaco, Roma can’t afford to bid on top players in their prime… once Totti and De Rossi retire, their identity will be closer to Ajax or Lazio than a true European competitor like Juventus or Milan. They will buy prospects and sell for profit, and perhaps take on big money striker in his 30s… but they will not be consistent qualifiers for the CL, let alone competitive in the knockout stages (not that they ever have been).

          I’d rather see our players at Roma than Monaco, don’t get me wrong. Monaco is funny money and doesn’t offer the prospect of career development or technical improvement for our players. But right now, they are richer and sexier– I don’t suspect they were interested in Bradley (their loss).

  3. squirt-lover says:

    Captain Bradley. He deserves it.

    • duke says:

      I think he is a better choice than Clint for sure

      • 57Tele says:

        Klinsmann actually addresses why he made Dempsey captain in the first episode of the ESPN documentary. Like him or not (or maybe a better way to say it is agree with him or not), Klinsmann seems to have reasons why he does the things he does. I took his response to mean that he thinks being captain will make Dempsey a better team player whereas he doesn’t think it would improve Bradley’s game. I certainly wouldn’t have thought of that, but I completely understand what he said (not sure I agree either ….).

        • Drewbles says:

          Anyone know if that video is posted somewhere online or will be replayed on ESPN again?

        • 62Jazz says:

          57 Tele,

          JK made Captain so that he would become the kind of team guy that Bradley already is.

          JK already gets that stuff from Bradley so making him captain would be a waste of a motivalional tool.
          .

  4. FRANK says:

    GOOD ARTICLE I HAVE UPDATED PROBABILITY ANALYSIS BECAUSE OF FRANCO

    link to i.imgur.com

    • Mike says:

      Franco LOL!!!! World cup time turn up!

    • MisterJC says:

      This is pure gold…

    • Good Jeremy says:

      While the uniqueness of your posts is quickly wearing off, I’m endlessly amused by your repeated misspelling of BERK SHEA.

      • Jesse D says:

        everything is misspelled. Some of the comments are cute but I’m not sure I get it. Clearly the JK ratings are way off.

    • Dan says:

      I was a big fan of yours at first but later found that your posts were repitive.

      With this one though you came back like Jordan (the first time, not the second time)

      I was actually loling in public. Well done!

    • Drewbles says:

      I laughed when I realized Wondolowski had the highest “Juregen Klinsmen” (wtf) rating.

    • William the Terror says:

      Glad to see that my comment resulted in an upgrade of Diskerud’s stock. Keep up the good work.

    • Don the Jewler says:

      This is stupid, Brad Davis was great in Mid Night Express

      • William the Terror says:

        Yeah, but that was the pinnacle of his career. After that role, he was largely reduced to performing a series of mostly forgettable roles in bad made-for-television movies. Then he died. I think FRANK has this one nailed.

        • Don the Jewler says:

          Your only backing FRANK because you got props in his list. It only takes one WC for greatness and one good movie

    • Del Griffin says:

      This is great, keep it up FRANK

    • Leo says:

      …I can’t believe I’m about to say this:

      I agree with you on your analysis of Omar Gonzalez, but you really think he won’t be on the plane?

      Also, this spreadsheet is simultaneously the funniest and most awesome thing I’ve ever seen produced from a Microsoft Office (or derivative) product.

    • captain obvious says:

      A-ron Johnson, the gritty kid from the streets of Harlem!

    • Justin El Matador says:

      It doesn’t get any better than your comments or analyses, FRANK!

      However, I don’t agree on Edu… Having a Renaissance.. Could be on squad. I like Parkhurst as well, and should be there over Evans. Agreed on O Gonz.. Send him back to LA!

  5. AMP says:

    Solid writing by Panizo, but Bradley seems like a tough interview. There’s really nothing of note here besides that MB only had an injection and is feeling 100%.

  6. SE says:

    I remember when he was invited to the 2006 WC prep camp and there were people who were upset he was there instead of some others.

    • BrianVT says:

      Those were people who didn’t know much about soccer.

    • Lil' Zeke says:

      I don’t remember being there instead of anybody. He was just a happy surplus. So we may actually be talking about people who don’t know anything about anything

    • Jesse D says:

      I wish they would show and admit they were the ones claiming nepotism.

    • duke says:

      And I for one feel the same way about several of JKs picks this time but not Bradley.

      I have to admit that in the beginning I didnt like him. I had serious questions about his automatic inclusion on every team. I think his dad being removed from the equation has been good for Michal’s career as it always created questions when he was younger. Must have been bad for him too as Im sure other players kept their distance from the coaches son. Now there is no question on his value and JK should name him captain. Dempsey is not captain material…. Bradley is

      • Len says:

        Agree with this. There is no doubt that at this time he is absolutely integral to the success of the team but at the time, you really had to question the developmental arc. He was always good but being handed the keys to the car at 19 and never being taken out (I believe I can recall him being subbed out once in about the 75th minute in a game against Denmark in 6 years), playing every meaningful game at center mid, never playing on the wing (see Torres, Feilhaber, Sascha etc), almost always paired with a destroyer of limited ability (I know Feilhaber was there once in a while). This occurred even during the early days when he was prone to fits of pique and getting cards.

        I never would have argued that he shouldn’t have been (strongly) in the mix (pardon the double negative) and I realize that there were limited other options and some of those shot themselves in the foot. However, I think it’s a reasonable argument that his development (which has resulted in an excellent player) may have been at the expense of others. I always thought it was more complicated than “nepotism” but i also thought it wasn’t quite right.

        It’s all water under the bridge now and we need him there all the time, every game. Good luck to us! Go USA!

        • Milkspilled says:

          Len,

          Michael Bradley unfairly took his spot from some more deserving candidate? If they were more deserving would they not have won the competition? Not all sons benefit from working for their fathers. And in sport the game ultimately judges you impartially.

          Bob Bradley was ultimately right about is son whether or not his motives were pure.

          Care to name the top flight all around US eligible midfield candidate, in his mid to late 20’s , running around out there not being capped by the US who was robbed by the BB’s Tommy Boy?.

          Feilhaber proved himself inconsistent a high maintenance, serial, underachiever.

          Mo Edu suffered a series of bad injuries just when he should have been challenging the manager’s son.

          Rico Clark was inadequate.

          Jermaine Jones came later and should have been bossing the midfield at the 2010 World Cup but was hurt.

          Michael’s situation with the USMNT proves the old adage the 80% of life is about showing up.

          • Len says:

            Agree with your points. Nobody was strong enough to inject themselves in that situation and MB made the best of the opportunity to the point where he makes the team go. I don’t really know if that was always the case. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a huge fan. We’re in the here and now and we need him at this best.

        • beachbum says:

          basically, Michael has proven the doubters wrong and shown that all was quite right with is inclusion all along as clearly the best choice. Cheers to those doubters who can see that now and admit it. Jeers to those doubters who still want to pretend they were on to something back then with the nepotism BS and the other crap they’d always throw at him…you all were the thing that was not quite right frankly

          now it’s water under the bridge

          • Len says:

            If I’ve offended you personally, I apologize. Just stating an opinion as a longtime fan.

            • beachbum says:

              right back at you. if I’ve offended you personally I apologize. Just stating my opinion too

            • Nate says:

              i shared that opinion, Len. The beauty of Michael Bradley is that he proves, once and for all, that to be considered America’s best player, you do not need to be playing in “the best league.” After all, Bradley could not cut it at Glabach, nor in the Premier League.

        • John says:

          +1

          Since moving to Serie A, Michael has really improved as a player, but back then he did get preferential treatment. He was handed the keys to the team before he deserved it and our other options at CM were not given a fair shake (usually they were just played out of position). It’s a moot point though because he has emerged as our best field player since.

  7. Fredo says:

    Let’s not forget that BB spent 2 years trying to build his midfield around Mikey leading up to 2010. He was “integral” then. I hope he steps up and produces in Brazil. I mean, he should.

    • Del Griffin says:

      Thanks you, it took a lot to out yourself as one of those who thinks MB was a beneficiary of nepotism.

      • Fredo says:

        Jeez, BB & Marsch admitted that they spent 2 years searching for the right central midfield partner for Mikey and that they never could. At the time, I was advocating the need to look at all possible partnerships, including those that didn’t include Mikey as a lock. All for the good of the team as a whole. Again, I hope Mikey plays well in Brazil. He is certainly a more disciplined and better player now than he was 4 years ago.

        • Nate says:

          that is the approach JK took too. Explore all the options, see what works best, then go for it. I too thought it was odd to give Bradley they keys to the national team while his peers were struggling to break into the 18.

        • Michael Corleone says:

          Fredo,

          You are forgetting that the US is probably better all around.

          “Mikey” has more to work with

          Oh and I thought you didn’t know Johnny O?

  8. Bach's Thumb says:

    As much as it gets lost in the furor, there were many times in which Michael Bradley had no business being on the field for the USMNT. There was a REAL bias and it showed frequently.

    He’s integral to the squad’s success today, but when he was younger he was not. Yet, he was never taken off the field no matter how poorly he played. That’s bad coaching. He was the only player to have that ‘staying power.’

    • Jesse D says:

      It just wasn’t true though. Bradley always performed well, at least better than replacement options. I would watch Bradley put in what was a very good game and then have to listen to all these people claim it was nepotism. Bradley was the best midfielder we’ve had since the moment he stepped on the field. People get that his job isn’t to score goals right? I still just don’t understand what people saw that made them think he was a poor player.

      • Bac says:

        No sh!t… right?..
        I don’t get it either. From the time he took the field, it looked pretty simple. When he played we looked better, when he didn’t, we didn’t

      • Petro4ever says:

        I’m not sure I ever thought of him as a “poor player,” but Bradley circa 2010 did have holes in his game. He was an athletic player who wasn’t afraid to mix it up with opposing players physically, but he didn’t have the passing ability he has now and he couldn’t always keep the ball under pressure. Pre-2012 it wasn’t unreasonable to think that he shouldn’t start every single game and, among players in his age group, Edu, Holden, and Feilhauber were all intriguing, if also flawed, alternatives.

        The difference between Bradley and our other central midfielders is that he continued to develop while his competitors stagnated. Bradley has become increasing comfortable on the ball, can withstand defensive pressure and can deliver a perfectly-weighted pass to the right teammate at game speed. Playing in Italy definitely helped his offensive game and we’re reaping the benefit of it now. Meanwhile, Edu played in the less-technical SPL, didn’t find a good longterm fit when Rangers collapsed, and has more or less stopped developing. Similarly, Holden struggled with injuries and was and still hasn’t been able to put together a full club season, let alone develop into a fulltime national steamer.

        So Bradley’s story is kind of a mixed bag. He was 1 of multiple center mid prospects, probably got more playing time than he deserved early on, but then worked tirelessly to fill holes in his game and is now one of the best pure mid fielders we’ve ever had. While he had competition early on, none of them panned out in the way he did, for reasons both in and out of their control.

    • Handel says:

      Bach,

      I saw just about every game the player formerly known as MB90 played for the US.

      He had stinkers but, and everyone forgets this, it’s not as if Mr Nepotism had Cesc Fabregas or a 2014 version of Yaya Toure waiting in the wings.

      The current cornucopia of riches (sarcasm deeply intentional) facing Klinsmann is a very, very, recent phenomenon.

      Today everyone considers Mayor Rob Ford’s favorite soccer player to be indispensable. If there was a US player worthy of replacing him I would think he would have come up at around the same time and have been a challenger, not unlike the situation tha faces or faced Cameron and Gonzales or Friedel and Keller. So who is that guy?

    • GW says:

      Bach,

      “As much as it gets lost in the furor, there were many times in which Michael Bradley had no business being on the field for the USMNT. There was a REAL bias and it showed frequently.”
      Bulls++t

      A player has no business being on the field if you know:

      1. He can’t play the position to anywhere near the level required
      2. You have a better player available

      For example, and I’m taking a chance that you are not an All star Shortstop, but if Gerardi played you at shortstop today instead of a healthy Derek Jeter, then we could say you have no business being on the field. .

      Bradley had his bad days but he was never incompetent. When he first came up I was underwhelmed but then I saw his competition and I finally understood the need for anti depressants for US soccer fans.

      For some time Michael was the lesser of a lot of evils.

      As for bias, managers are SUPPOSED to show bias. They believe in certain players and stick with them even when it isn’t always pretty. Coaches have to determine whether what they are seeing the normal ups and downs or whether the player is just useless.

      Otherwise what you get is a constantly rotating cast of characters.

      Bob Bradley was tasked with transitioning the team from Arena and prepping them for 2010. Michael Bradley’s performance in the 2010 World Cup justified his dad’s faith in him.

  9. dude1 says:

    That’s one thing you have to admire about him. Responsibility is his fuel. He wants to take on the work load, he wants to be a leader. Donovan was forced into that role in 2006, and wasn’t able to find his feet- and then followed that up with a stellar 2010 campaign, but the ability to lead in these situations is NEVER a given. Bradley never seems to meet with too potent of a challenge when it comes to this situation, and it’s great to have him as the general in midfield.

    • Zocklo says:

      Donovan is too introverted to be a good captain. You can be a great player and be an introvert, but not the best trait for a team captain.

      • obrienk84 says:

        Donovan is not an introvert. Have you seen his interview where he essentially took over the Dan Patrick show? He’s great on the mic and will have a career at ESPN after he retires.

      • Killjoy says:

        Introverted?

        I suppose that is possible.

        But when you have been US soccer’s equivalent to Le Bron for 12 years that is hard to believe.

        Donovan has done more media for US soccer in the last 12 years than the entire 30 man pool combined.

  10. 4now says:

    True captain.

  11. Jesse D says:

    I have to imagine the moment the World Cup ends, Bradley will be handed the armband for the next 4 years.

    • Dan says:

      Absolutely no question.

    • Cole Younger says:

      Jesse D,

      Only if the US crashes and burns.

      Klinsmann made Clint the captain to get him to be less selfish , to bring others more into the game.

      In other words Clint had a flaw and the armband was used to correct that flaw and make him more useful to the team. It’s a useful tool. Where Klinsmann is from the job description of captain varies widely but what seems clear is that Klinsmann has his own ideas about developing team leaders.

      Michael Bradley has always been this way and will always be this way whether he is captain or not. I see little benefit to the team by naming him captain. I’d use the armband on someone else.

      And if the US does well and gets out of the round and wins a game or two then hopefully that will mean Clint will have done his job as Captain. Maybe he won’t want to quit the US.

      And the Copa America is coming right up.

      • Texan says:

        Cole,
        You’re right on what he said about choosing Clint. But you’re making the mistake of thinking that as he picks a captain for the 2018 cycle, he will use the same criteria which is, let me find someone that isn’t Bradley and give it to them because I’m already getting that out of MB. It was a very specific scenario. Where at the time, as good as MB has been, it really took his injury in the middle of qualifying, AFTER CD was named captain, for people to truly see we need MB more than any other player. When MB was 24, it was understandable that you get more from giving the band to CD than you do MB. Starting 2015? It’s simply MB’s team. Period.

        • Cole Younger says:

          Texan,

          I hope not. And I’ll bet Klinsmann feels the same way.

          This has nothing to do with the Captain’s armband which is mostly meaningful to the manager, the Captain and the players.

          The last year has shown just how much this team relies on Bradley.

          And that is a bad thing.

          Going into Copa America, Klinsmann’s first objective needs to be to develop alternatives to #4.

          You know how they say that the #10 role is mostly extinct in the modern game? It’s not because there are no #10 types out there ( Silva, Mata, RSL’s Gil, Bradley) but rather because , unless your #10 is Pele or Maradona, modern defenses can always shut down one #10 which then means you shut down the team. Mexico is a good team but they are not defensively sophisticated like Germany, Portugal and Ghana are. I don’t see any of those teams letting Bradley rip them apart like he did Mexico.

          I don’t know who Klinsmann has in mind for his future midfield but if you look at Germany or Spain you can’t pick one player and say they are “his team”.

  12. Curtis says:

    Wrong. Klinsi secretly promised the captain’s armband after the conclusion of the WC to Julian Green.

    ;)

  13. Ronaldo Messi says:

    My insightful comments are deleted because they speak the truth about the state of disarray the USMNT is in because Klinsi decided to exercise his executive powers by undeservedly bringing to camp Yedlin and Green ahead of many other players who contributed to this team’s qualification for the WC. I repeat this move will bring dissent and some descent if he dares to include either one of these to untested player in the final roster. We will see a 0-0-3 WC for USMNT while Mexico laughing all the way to quarterfinals will cement their position as number one in CONCACAF.

    • Jack says:

      Mexico will have to play the best team coming out of Group B, being either Spain, Netherlands or Chile. So good luck with that.

    • Bac says:

      Are you going to post this same comment on every thread until someone engages you in a meaningless back and forth dialogue?

    • GW says:

      Ronaldo Messi,

      Why Ronaldo before Messi?

      Better year? Reverse alphabetical order? Height ?

    • Dennis says:

      In 2002, Arena included M. Bradley as the only “extra” player in the pre WC camp. The instructions to Bradley were mostly along the lines of “don’t hurt anyone”. MB’s reward for working being in the camp was a short runout as a sub in the US-Moroco pre-WC friendly. I don’t think anyone thought MB was there for any reason other than to get some experience.

      Isn’t it quite possible that Yedlin and Green are getting the same scenario?