After two losses to start the final round of World Cup qualifying, the U.S. Men’s national team enter Friday night’s World Cup qualifier with one goal in mind: a desperately-needed three points.
“We understand the position we’re in,” Bradley said after training at Avaya Stadium on Tuesday. “Because we didn’t start the Hex the right way, we put ourselves behind the eight ball.
“Friday night is the beginning of our chance to put things right and to get ourselves back in a good position.”
The USMNT lost its first two World Cup qualifying matches in November – a 2-1 loss to Mexico followed by a 4-0 blowout by Costa Rica – which led to the firing of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the re-hiring of Bruce Arena.
“We let ourselves down in Costa Rica,” Bradley said. “We didn’t play well enough, mistakes turned into bigger mistakes, which turned into bigger mistakes.
“There is zero point in continuing to look back at that in the moment. We are where we are now and it’s about Friday night, beginning the process of moving ourselves back up the table and stepping on the field in the first minute and playing in a really aggressive way that, ultimately, leaves no doubt as to who’s stepping off the field.”
The United States currently sit in last place in the table, trailing winless Trinidad and Tobago in goal differential (-5).
Arena put together a veteran roster for this situation, and this USMNT lineup will determine if experience really does go a long way. Of those on the 24-man roster, 19 players enter these qualifiers with World Cup qualifying experience. Ten players on the squad have been in 12 or more qualifiers and five have played in more than 30 qualifiers: Clint Dempsey (36), Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard and DeMarcus Beasley (33 each) and Bradley (31).
“Experience counts a lot in games like this,” Bradley said. “Guys who understand what games and these moments are all about. Obviously, in (Howard and Dempsey’s) cases, their experience and their track record speaks for itself. Guys who have been on the field for us on so many big days, on so many important days.”
But not everything has been perfect within the national team. The USMNT suffered a few blows to the roster before this week began. Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson were scratched from the squad due to injury and goalkeeper Brad Guzan will miss this round of qualifiers as he and his wife are expecting their second child. Graham Zusi, Chris Wondolowski and David Bingham were all called up to take over the vacated spots on the roster.