photo by Brad Smith/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
PASADENA, Calif. – Since making his debut for the U.S. men's national team in May 2006, Michael Bradley has played in 58 matches at the international level. Bradley has played in numerous big-stage friendlies, World Cup qualifiers, Gold Cup and Confederations Cup games and World Cup matches.
Yet when Bradley steps onto the field at the Rose Bowl on tonight against Mexico, he'll do something he's never done before, and something he's eager to do: play in an international final.
Having been a big part of the U.S. teams that made respective runs to the 2007 Gold Cup final and 2009 Confederations Cup final, Bradley has missed out on the championship games due to yellow card accumulation. That won't be the case this time, and is something that will benefit the Americans almost as greatly as it will satisfy Bradley's hunger to play in a final.
"Yeah, for sure," said Bradley when asked if he's looking forward to the game a bit more than most of his teammates. "I've said a few times now, finals, they don't come around every day. Maybe in your career if you're lucky you get a chance to play in a couple.
"I've obviously missed two, but now the opportunity to step on the field on a big occasion with a trophy at stake, and it's something I'm really looking forward to."
Bradley has enjoyed a fairly strong Gold Cup, as he has been an imposing will defensively and a strong link between the offense and defense. But as has been the case for much of his time with the U.S. team, Bradley still has a collection of doubters and critics. He hasn't allowed that to get the best of him though, as he continuously does his job and proves more often than not that he's an asset to the team.
His teammates know that, too.
"Michael, for such a young kid, he's so experienced," said Tim Howard. "He's been unlucky (not to play in a final). The big games don't phase him, he plays like a veteran player. As far as tough, hard-nosed players go, he'll top the list (in the final)."
Bradley's toughness and tenacity will be needed alongside Jermaine Jones, who also brings a certain attitude to him, in the heart of the U.S. midfield. The two central midfielders have a big task at hand against Mexico, needing to help stymie Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez and Giovani Dos Santos while also doing enough offensively to keep their central midfield counterparts, Gerardo Torrado and Israel Castro, honest.
"In big games a lot of times who can win the midfield goes a long way," said Bradley. "In the tournament, so far, we've done a pretty good job of that, putting pressure on the other team and really making it hard for them in the center of the field.
"(In the final) it will be even more important that we can set the tone, win the battles in there and really make them feel like things aren't going to come easy."
It is rare for the United States to ever make things easy for archrival Mexico, and with Bradley in the lineup for his first ever final on Saturday, there's a good chance the midfield battle will be as tough as ever,
Michael had his worst game of the tournament against Panama. For the USA to stay close he needs to be much, much better.
When Bradley gets stuck in and disrupts and keeps it simple he’s at his best.
It definetly helped him when Adu entered and played with him and made himself available. Adu or not someone needs to fill that role and allow Bradley to cover those passing lanes.
Bradley would be great on a 10-15 premier league team playing for 0-0 draws and 1-0 wind but lost and inneffective on a top 10 team.
I am feeling a red card for Michael Bradley in tonight’s final.
TROOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLL (also joking)
Pipe dream: he ends up at Arsenal, giving them the defensive bite they’ve been looking for.
Realistic dream: He’s picked up by some mid-table EPL team (Fulham, Stoke, Bolton?) or a nice team in Italy (Palermo?).
What I see happening: He plays out his contract at BMG and lands at a bigger club, maybe Everton or Tottenham or Napoli if we’re still talking Italy, in a year.
Yeah, you’re right. Rico played well that tournament, and I was kind of hoping no one would bring up the fact that he did, in fact, jump start that super counter attack that led to Donovan’s goal. Haha. I was only trying to make a point because I simply don’t understand the Bradley hate on this website. Continues to baffle me. Is he Xavi? No. Anywhere close? No. Does he make mistakes with the ball? Yes. In spite of all that, does he continue to prove he belongs in the starting XI? Yes. (I’m simply defending my position, not directing that toward you.)
In fairness, were Bradley available, Clark would have still played, Feilhaber had been an offensive sub in that tournament.
And Clark did start the Donovan/Davies/Donovan breakaway goal with a nicely weighted through ball off of Brazil’s blown corner.
But, Bradley had played well that tournament, and it’s quite possible that with him in the game, the US has a better chance of holding onto a lead.
Is it possible to have “a fan club of doubters and critics”? I thought fan clubs were made up of, y’know…fans.
Totally agree with you.
Is it just me that likes our chances against a team where we probably won’t win the possession battle? Not saying this is a good thing but it just seems like we have a better idea of our identity when we play the counter-attack. It seemed to me like we simply didn’t know what to do with the ball when we were controlling possession and moving it down the pitch on a regular basis. Again, not saying that’s a good thing but we seem to have much better ideas on the quick counter attack rather than a controlled possessiion match.
I want to see Jones put a couple of hard, but clean, tackles on Guardado (if he plays) and Dos Santos. Disrupting these two will take a ton away from Mexico’s attack. These are the guys that most likely would have the ball in the final third to supply Chicharito.
Kinda agree with you on this. I think Jermaine is going to have fun playing against Torrado, should be really entertaining.
Jones will be more important, though.
You’re right, Ricardo Clark did a much better job of that. Why isn’t he starting now? Wait, not even on the roster? Oh…
Considering our ability to counter attack I don’t have a problem with a typical BB style game. I don’t think the US players have the skill set versus Mexico to do what they did against Jamaica. This is the way the team has pulled out results against more skillful opponents. The more they stretch the more likely Chicharito will find openings. Yes, I’m very worried about him and would game plan around denying him any service. Best way is to clog passing lanes and look to counter with Deuce, Bedoya, LD and JA.
He only plays because his dad is the coach
IT’s been a very interesting battle to watch in the midfield between Bradley and Torrado. I think Torrado got the better of him in Mexico City the last time they played, so I hope Bradley can punch back tonight. Should be a great battle though.
On another MB subject, any speculation about his next club destination… If I recall right from the running commentary posts, folks that watched him with BMG generally indicated he did well given the role he was asked to play in their system so wonder if he’ll be back in the Bundesliga, or perhaps Eredivisie or Serie A this season?
I don’t think it is his choice.
I second your point about applying pressure. Really hope we play a high pressure style when Mexico has the ball in their third and aggressively mark like in the Jamaica match where we forced a ton of turnovers and set the tone. If we drop back (as this team has shown a propensity to do under BB – no, not a BB hater, it’s my observation) when Mexico is advancing the ball with their triangle play, our boys will be in for a long night.
Probably would have lost by more. Bradley would have slowed down play and never allowed the US to attack so aggressively in the first half.
If this midfield can constanty apply pressure, turnovers will be forced. Torrado is prone to cough theball up as well as gio. Their defense is solid but can be stretched at times so we must find a way to get play down the flanks. Patience is key because they will have the lion’s share of the posession if we should score first.
So Bradley is going to keep the Bald look? Dude looks 40
It’s time again for young Bradley to shine! I still think he is one of the most under-rated box-box midfielders in the world of soccer!!
Still wonder if things would have ended up differently had Bradley played in the Confed cup final