Bob Bradley has plenty to do in the coming weeks and months, between selecting his 23-man World Cup roster and plotting the course for that team to get ready for the tournament. Those preparations continue tonight with the United States' friendly vs. El Salvador in Tampa.
Bradley spoke on Tuesday about a variety of topics, including the U.S. team's upcoming friendlies and the progress of two of the team's top fullbacks, Jonathan Bornstein and Jonathan Spector.
"Czech Republic and Turkey are good opponents with some similarities with teams that we’ll play, with players that we’ll play against," Bradley said of the national team's opponents for friendlies in May.
"It gives us an opportunity to have two games in the U.S., and then when we get to South Africa we’ll see if there’s another possibility for us.
“Whether it’s closed door, whether its open, how we do that is not clear, but I think the hope for sure is that we’ll be able to get there, have a few days to get acclimatized and then get a good dry run in there before we play England."
Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl is reporting that Australia is an option being considered for the friendly/scrimmage in South Africa. In 2006, the United States played Angola in a pre-World Cup scrimmage in Germany.
Bradley also discussed the recent form of left back Jonathan Bornstein, who he believes has shown steady improvement in recent months.
“It’s been a good stretch there," Bradley said of Bornstein's recent form. "If you look at his career, that first year everything went great, but then sometimes the second year there’s little details that you have to go back and cover. I think he’s matured a lot and he has shown that he gets in difficult games and he competes well.
"Athletically he’s quick, for his size he’s good in the air, so you always know when Jonny’s on the field he’s going to give you everything he has."
Another fullback Bradley discussed is Jonathan Spector. A regular at right back for the national team, Spector has seen a recent successful run at left back for West Ham, a development that adds more versatility to a defender who figures to play a key role for the United States at the World Cup.
"He’s comfortable on both sides," Bradley said. " Obviously one of the things that he’s been able to do when he plays right back is, he’s not so much a guy who delivers crosses by getting very deep, but when he’s a little bit back more he has played some very good balls in, (like) the ball that Clint scored, both against Egypt and Brazil (in the Confederations Cup).
"That’s a little bit different from the other side of the field. I think that’s not as much a factor, but the comfort level is there. When we talked about games that I saw, I saw West Ham play Blackburn. I thought on the field, in terms of his positioning and his passing from the left side, he did well. "He’s still enough of a two-footed player that when he has to play with his left he can.
"It’s great that he’s been playing and its nice that we’ve got the versatility, and then you can add in that we used him in both matches in November as a centerback so I think those things are really helpful."
Bradley hasn't had much free time this year. He ran the U.S. team's January training camp before embarking on a trip to Europe to watch and meet with several of the national team's top players.
"You don’t have that much time before we’re all together in May so it was good to sit and talk," Bradley said. "It was a lot of the veteran players. It was Jay DeMerit, Clint Dempsey, Jonathan Spector, Timmy Howard and Landon, so it was a really good chance to sit with those guys, talk about some of the things we’ve been through together and make sure that we’re ready to go."
Bradley also addressed the possibility of facing Argentina in a friendly in the near future after word surfaced that the South Americans were set to play a series of friendlies in the United States. He stated that he wouldn't mind facing Argentina again, and pointed to the strength of the national team's schedule during the current World Cup cycle.
"Everyone knows that I don’t specifically make the schedule but I’m part of the process, and in the last cycle you look at the games that we’ve been able to play and the type of opponents," Bradley said. "We’ve played Argentina twice in that period of time. Now we’ve played Brazil a good number of times, so these kind of games help us.
"I think the improvement in our team and our growth, our readiness for Confederations Cup and the final round of (World Cup) qualifying had a lot to do with the type of schedule that we’ve played over the last few years."