Coming off of a four-game winning streak finishing with a big rivalry win for Toronto FC, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley now turn their attention to the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Sitting in third in the Hexagonal stage standings, the U.S. will face Costa Rica at home and Honduras on the road in the next set of World Cup qualifiers. For Altidore, packing the hot streak in his bags to give him a boost with the national team isn’t necessarily simply.
“For me, it’s two different teams, it’s two different focuses,” Altidore told SBI Soccer. “It’s just [about] getting in there and making sure I’m ready to represent the country and give everything for the colors. It’s a totally different dynamic.”
For Michael Bradley, it’s not about bringing a hot streak to another team or simply the confidence in your ability. Instead, the midfielder put emphasis on the player’s thought process.
“What you bring is your mentality,” said Bradley. “What you bring is your desire to play, to compete, to help your team win, to do all the things that are important to a team being successful.”
“When you’re lucky to play on some of the teams that I am, whether it’s here in Toronto or whether it’s with the U.S. national team, then you’re not the only one,” he said. “There are 20 other guys around you who are doing the same thing, that’s what being on a team is and that’s what makes good teams.”
With Toronto FC on the top of the MLS standings, there could be a desire for the two TFC players to recreate this with the U.S. in the Hex. Both Bradley and Altidore have enjoyed fine form over the past several weeks and, in many ways, throughout the MLS season. TFC is threatening to run away with the Supporters’ Shield, and the play of the team’s two USMNT stars has gone a long way towards putting the club in that position.
Altidore has scored 11 MLS goals this season, and two of those goals have come in the past two matches. Playing alongside Sebastian Giovinco, Altidore has stayed relatively healthy throughout the season, a blessing for TFC. Bradley, meanwhile, has served as the midfield linchpin and team leader, helping guide a TFC team loaded with a wide variety of options throughout the field.
For Altidore, the club success is something in the back of his head, but the focus remains singular. It’s about not dropping points at home against Costa Rica, who are four points ahead in the standings.
Bradley has a similar approach to the situation. Despite thoroughly enjoying the success his club team has had in MLS, the World Cup qualifying situation is entirely different and should be treated differently.
“Ideally you want to do that when you’re playing at home,” said Altidore. “Costa Rica is a difficult game but we’re at home so we want to take the three points and we need to make sure that we’re ready so we can be more relaxed when we get to Honduras.”
“The main goal in the Hex is to qualify for the World Cup,” said Bradley. “There aren’t really any bonus points to finish in first. In a perfect world, we’d be in a better position right now.”
The Toronto FC captain admits that there were mistakes made by the USMNT heading into the Hex and realizes that they may not be in the best of positions. However, Bradley believes in his team’s intentions to secure a spot in Russia and not necessarily finishing first in the qualifying tournament.
“We tossed away some points at the beginning in a bad way and that meant that we were behind the eight ball and the pressure has been on to really take points,” said Bradley. “Our margin was not really big so in a perfect world we’d be out there ahead of Mexico but the reality of the situation is qualifying for the World Cup. In a lot of ways, it’s pass or fail.”