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Michael Bradley set to earn 100th cap with USMNT in Gold Cup opener



Photo by Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports


Barring a surprise of epic proportions or unfortunate injury, Michael Bradley will achieve yet another milestone in his accomplished career on Tuesday. One that only 15 other U.S. Men’s National Team players have ever accomplished.

Bradley is set to become the latest American to earn 100 caps on Tuesday as he leads the U.S. into its Gold Cup opener against Honduras. The significance of the match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, will likely not allow for much celebration, but that is probably the way the no-nonsense Bradley probably prefers it.

Even so, the game will serve as a reminder of just how far the 27-year-old midfielder has come since earning his first cap for the U.S. back in May 2006. Bradley has not only become arguably the best player in the pool, but is now the de facto leader after being named captain last week by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. His presence, on and off the field, has been and continues to be vital to the Americans’ success

Still, the path to the century mark has not been easy for Bradley. While he became a regular contributor for the U.S. in 2007, he did so under repeated claims of nepotism from media and fans. Bradley’s father, Bob, was the head coach of the U.S. when the promising youngster began to break in, but many on the outside saw the bushy-haired prospect as undeserving and emphatically stated as much.

They cited his hotheadedness, his penchant for picking up yellow cards, his attacking limitations as reason why he should not be on the squad, let alone starting. That he was still a young professional in the process of honing his craft was a fact thrown out the window. Anything and everything about Bradley was dissected, doubly and more critically so because he was the coach’s son.

The tide eventually began to turn, as Bradley kept his head forward and put forth more well-rounded performances for the U.S. on a consistent basis. Bradley, who was also excelling at the club level in Europe at the time, also developed more of an attacking edge as the initial years in his career passed. He was just as likely then to make a trailing run into the box to finish a cross as he was to execute a slide tackle in the defensive third.

Perhaps the biggest tipping point in terms of public opinion came in February 2009. The U.S. hosted arch-rival Mexico in a frigid World Cup qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, and it was Bradley who came up with two goals to lift the Americans to the latest 2-0 victory over their southern neighbors.

Bradley continued to be a reliable piece in the U.S. midfield, complementing veterans like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey well. He also kept finding ways to score important goals. Like the one he netted in the 2009 Confederations Cup win over Egypt that prevented the Americans from suffering a group-stage elimination, or the dramatic equalizer he had against Slovenia at the World Cup a year later. Even Mexico felt his wrath again, as he scored an early opener in the 2011 Gold Cup final before the U.S. collapsed and lost a two-goal lead.

It was not just the goals, though. Bradley became more solid in all aspects of his game, and his improved passing was not key to the Americans’ style of play. He somehow was not an immediate starter once Klinsmann took over the U.S. in the second half of 2011, but quickly re-demonstrated his importance to the program and earned a regular place in the lineup again.

Bradley helped the U.S. to another successful World Cup qualifying campaign in the years that followed, but familiar criticism found him again at last summer. With Jozy Altidore ruled out early in the World Cup because of injury, Bradley was thrust into a more attacking role. The results were mixed at best, and he was again a lightning rod for fans and media’s scrutiny.

As he did before, Bradley bounced back. He has looked more and more comfortable playing further up the field and is playing like the attack-minded central midfielder that Klinsmann has long professed that Bradley can be.

Bradley is showing no signs of slowing down. His recent performances in historic wins in Europe against the Netherlands and Germany showed he might yet have another level he can reach, and those outings combined with Bradley’s businesslike and team-first attitude – not to mention Dempsey’s recent referee incident – explain why Klinsmann named Bradley the U.S. captain ahead of the Gold Cup.

Now, Bradley is aiming to make amends for what happened four years ago by leading the U.S. to another regional crown. The Americans may have won the Gold Cup in 2013, but Bradley was not a part of that team due to Klinsmann’s decision to go with a weaker squad in that tournament.

The road for another title, one that would be Bradley’s first since 2007, starts on Tuesday. The match against Honduras will mark Bradley’s 100th for the U.S., but do not expect Bradley to allow him or his team to place the focus on that.


  1. Michael came of age at the same time that U.S. Soccer fandom did, and to some extent he paid the price for that timing. He, Jozy and Adu all went through the same wringer of an early career, and for my money Michael is the best field player the U.S. has produced since Donovan’s youth and is really more reminiscent of Ramos and Renya. If he remains healthy, could get to 200 caps.

    I posted prior to the 2010 cup on another site that I believed MB would wind up the captain of the U.S. Team and a top five club in one of the European leagues, and well as being recognized as a truly great American field player. He chose to come back to MLS (which I actually appreciate), but I still believe the other two predictions.

    Way to go, Michael!

  2. Michael Bradley has always been the captain, armband or not. No one works harder, no one pushes the team more, no one has more class. As far as work ethic goes, no one is a better model. That’s what a captain should be; that’s what a kid should look up to. Been a long time comin’

    Beat Los Catrachos!

  3. I believe MB played forward on the U-17 WC US team he was on. He also hit his growth spurt after that tournament and spent most of a year recovering from injury when he first joined the Metrostars. Lots of people thought the move to the Metrostars was favoritism, I did not. He kept his starting role when Arena stepped in as Metros coach and Arena had MB as the 24th player in the 2006 pre World Cup camp and friendlies. MB also was an essential player on the Olympic team he was on (he did get a silly card for delaying the game which caused him to sit out the elimination game the US lost at least partly because of his absence.)

    I am sure Bob Bradley is a proud father, but I am also sure he would not have given his son playing time if there were a better player available. I suppose charges of nepotism are unavoidable in such a situation, but they were pretty clearly unfounded. If nothing else that was proved by the US’s poor play when MB was not available.

    MB may not be the best player in the world, but I think it is absolutely unquestionable that he has earned every minute of time he has played and that no other player has been able to step in and make anyone forget the MB was not there.

    • I’m sure we all love our kids but at the expense of doing a lousy job?

      BB was and remains a very fine manager. He never struck me as suicidal so I always felt he wasn’t going to give his son so much playing time if there wasn’t a really good reason, such as making the USMNT a better team.

      • not suicidal perhaps, but the inability or unwillingness to create alternate pathways to success was kind of foolhardy. With BB all of his eggs were pretty much in one basket. He had one basic strategy (pack it in on defense and counter, counter, counter) and one basic starting 11 with a few variations. MB was good enough then and is even better now. For one, MB won everyone’s respect for how he handled the transition to a new coach. He didn’t whine to the press, He just went out and worked hard and won his spot while facing some actual competition. Having JK as his coach has actually worked wonders for his reputation, at least with fans.

  4. He played well in 3 major Euro leagues. Shame he did not get much of a chance at AV but luckily he rebounded in Italy.

    I wanna see him in La Liga with Sevilla or Valencia or A Madrid

  5. There are a lot of myths around the SBI approved narrative of Mikey:

    “ but is now the de facto leader after being named captain last week by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. His presence, on and off the field, has been and continues to be vital to the Americans’ success”

    He was always a de facto leader. Once Boca, Dolo and LD’s sabbaticals were finalized, Mikey became the de facto leader armband or not.

    “, his attacking limitations as reason why he should not be on the squad, let alone starting.”

    Attacking limitations? He began his career in Europe by scoring 18 league goals ( 20 overall ) in one season for Heerenveen, thereby breaking McBride’s single season record for an American. Granted it was Holland but if you saw him in the BL with BMG you would know that Mikey did not forget how to score when he left Holland.

    His “attacking limitations” for the USMNT under Daddy had more to do with the fact that the team was set up for Clint and Donovan to score.

    This is linked with the myth that the #6 role was his best but that is laughable. He can do it well and maybe a few years from now when he slows down it will be ideal for him but Mikey is no Beckerman. He has always been an average tackler. Before he went to Italy, he was too undisciplined for the role. When he got back from Italy, Beckerman, who is better at it, was around so JK eventually put him in the role that Mikey has always wanted to play since he first got capped, an all action box to box do everything kind of guy. He’s finally gotten the maturity and experience to understand his limitations and make the most of his talents.

    “He somehow was not an immediate starter once Klinsmann took over the U.S. in the second half of 2011, but quickly re-demonstrated his importance to the program and earned a regular place in the lineup again.”

    Somehow was not an immediate starter?

    Mikey was loaned to Aston Villa in January of 2011. He played a total of 4 games for them. He then played 6 games in the Gold Cup that summer. This meant he had played 10 games in 2011 when JK took over.

    JK’s first game for the US was vs. Mexico in August of 2011.

    This was also the same month that Mikey signed for Chievo.

    At the time JK gave an interview where he said that they had decided it was important, given the bad time Mikey had just had with Villa, to give Mikey time to get settled in a new club, league and country, a process JK knew about firsthand.

    Mikey came back for the US on February of 2012 in the Italy friendly.
    In the interim he missed 9 JK games, all friendlies. Two of the games, Venezuela and Panama, were right after the 2012 January Camp which Mikey almost certainly would not have played in.
    There were only 3 games, Belgium, France, and Slovenia, all in Europe, which Mikey would have been likely to have played in under normal circumstances.

    Looking back, it seems clear that Chievo was a watershed time for Mikey and he has since gone on from strength to strength. Giving Mikey time to get settled with his Italian club, instead of playing in the mass cattle call (featuring guys like Rico Clark, Robbie Rogers and so on) of those early transitional friendlies, has been a great move for the US.

    • You have a couple of incorrect statements.

      Bradley was called into several fall friendlies and was used off the bench. Games against Honduras and Ecuador come to mind. He then got his first start, if I recall correctly, as a right midfielder that November vs. Slovenia.

      Much was made about how he wasn’t an automatic starter anymore and some were happy about it.

      It wasn’t how you paint it.

      • Cristian0,

        You are right I missed the Slovenia game as Mikey’s first start And Mikey did sub out Mo Edu at halftime of the Ecuador game,

        Mikey was also called into the France game but did not play.

        You say this means it was not as I painted it. How so?

        If anything this enforces my point that JK did not freeze out Mikey and kept in even closer touch with him than I remember.

        But why play him his traditional 90 minutes when JK, the new manager, was obviously checking out guys in friendlies like Williams, Edu and so on? You saw him do that in the 9 or so friendlies after the 2014 World Cup.

        It’s not as if he didn’t already have a very good idea of what he had with Mikey.

        For years most of you complained not so much that Mikey played so many US games but rather why did he have to play 90 minutes every single game even “meaningless” friendlies?

        I love that halos sit very precariously on the heads of USMNT heros..

        JK haters forget that LD spent a large portion of his career being reviled by his American fans for the same things JK criticized him for. Landycakes was not a term of endearment.

        Clint has spent about 50% of his USMNT career being called a genius and the other 50% being called arrogant, lazy, stupid and selfish.

        Mikey is on a high now but it wasn’t long ago, like just after the World Cup most of you thought he was washed up.

      • I wholeheartedly enjoy your comments GW. You, Gary Page and Quozzel should start a blog lol. and i will write the snarky, rambling editorials.

      • Well said.

        I’m always intrigued about the perceptions of players in the eyes of fans. How they can change over time.

      • I alway thought the “JK tried to replace MB (and failed)” narrative was overblown. At the time, commenters couldn’t believe that JK actually rated Beckerman more highly than MB when in reality, Beckerman was simply getting his first real chance to play and it turns out Beckerman was a good find by JK. The USMNT now has a significant number of proven midfielders with minutes in big games that can be slotted in when called upon. MB’s stature has actually grown because he has proven he is the best of a bunch of good CMids who have also proven they can carry their weight in tough matches. I think the situation with MB exposed BB’s limited vision and his absolute unwillingness to take risks that could lead to improving as a team.

      • “ I think the situation with MB exposed BB’s limited vision and his absolute unwillingness to take risks that could lead to improving as a team.”

        I would say the exact opposite is true.

        During his tenure BB much was made of the fact that he went through the entire USMNT player pool very thoroughly capping a lot of players.

        And with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight it seems to me none of the guys who the SBI experts touted as being unjustly denied their rightful place as USMNT midfield maestros have proven to be anywhere near Mikey as a player.

        And none of them is still in the USMNT picture as a regular.

        I believe BB recruited JJ, not just because he was great but also to serve as Mikey’s “box to box mentor”. After all Jones was a great box to box guy in the BL and could speak German to Mikey.

        I think BB was grooming Mikey to serve as the next dominant player once LD left. And he was proven right.

        Bob is a fine manager and he is not stupid. And he certainly does not lack courage.

        He surely knew the heat he would take for the nepotism angle but he did it anyway because it was going to improve the team.

      • GW, I don’t think BB was grooming MB so much as using him as a fully integrated part of his plan. That’s fine. MB was capable of that. What BB didn’t do was groom other players who could help shoulder the load. JJ came too late in the process to help and ultimately was injured when he finally got his one-time switch. BB was starting Ricardo Clark on a regular basis for pete sake. Maybe Bedoya was still too young, maybe Paco Torres didn’t quite cut it physically, etc, maybe Sacha K. wasn’t the answer. Still, there is a world of difference between capping someone and actually giving players enough time to acclimate to the squad and then go out on the field and perform. I think Kyle Beckerman is the perfect example of a player who contributes under JK but never really got a fair shake under Bradley.

      • ra,,

        I watched Beckerman in the 2009 Gold Cup. I am certainly not the final authority on evaluating a player’s fitness for the USMNT. However, while I thought he was very good for a player who had no apparent speed, skill, or athleticism, I did not expect to see him wear the USMNT shirt again for anything other a B team emergency.

        That team went to the Gold Cup final and got b++t f++ked by an average Mexico team 5-0 in New Jersey of all places. The US was playing guys like Troy Perkins, Adu, Kenny Cooper, Santino Quaranta, Logan Pause, Heath Pearce, Sam Cronin, Jay Heaps , Davy Arnaud, Robbie Rogers, etc.

        These guys were the depth that BB was looking at leading up to the 2010 World Cup. You tell me who had better depth? BB or JK?

        There wasn’t anyone more shocked than me when JK started Kyle ( a player I actually love by the way) in his first game in charge in 2011. I was even more shocked when he played well. He has gone from strength to strength and is the US’ most disciplined player and its best dirty player, this side of Jermaine.

        So if you tell me that in the run up to the 2010 World Cup anyone in America thought Beckerman deserved to be anywhere near the World Cup team I will call you, respectfully and politely, severely delusional.

        National team managers can pick guys regularly and they can try to bring them along as quick as they can with the team but don’t really develop talent. They don’t have enough time. Do the math.

        They just get the best group they can and try to make something of them.

        The talent pool available to Bob Bradley was what it was, thin, and mostly limited.

        He had Mikey who worked out. He had Stu who was looking like he might be a breakout player at the World Cup until the Dutch derailed him. He gave Paco Torres plenty of chances to make his mark and Paco choked. He kept trying to get head case Benny ( the guy who didn’t realize fitness might be important for a pro soccer player until this year) to start taking his job seriously by calling him in repeatedly even when Benny was in trouble with his club. Benny went from starter to second half sub.

        BB took Adu to the Confederations Cup even though the Nike genius had played a total of 9 games that season. What does that tell you about the state of the USMNT depth that BB couldn’t dig up a body better than Adu to take to the Confederations Cup where he played 0 minutes?

        And then he took Adu to the Gold Cup maybe in an attempt to give the guy some much needed training time. You don’t think his behavior with Freddy wasn’t a taking risk?

        BB did not have the iron plated big bucks contract that JK wisely negotiated with the USSF before taking the US job. BB couldn’t take the kind of risks JK did and does. Bradley did not have the kind of support from the USSF that JK has today.

        And he did not have the horses JK has..

        I don’t think Kyle was good enough back then to have made the 2010 WC squad. But let’s say I’m wrong about that and give you Kyle.

        Who else did BB miss? Who is the BB reject who has since proved by his stellar play that he should have been a star with the BB era USMNT? I can’t think of one.

        BB did the best he could with a pretty mediocre (by World cup standards) bunch of players and was largely undone by injuries.

        Benny was missing critical potions of his brain. Gooch, Holden , Demerit came into the tournament handicapped to one degree or another by injury and Davies missed it entirely . If all those players had gone to South Africa fully intact, healthy and in form I think we beat Ghana and after that who the f++k knows?

        Probably the biggest difference between JK and BB, and this is a big one, is that JK is luckier. You can’t underestimate that.

  6. Congrats Michael! I’ve always believed Bradley would become the player he has grown into, even when the fanbase thought he was only getting starts because of nepotism, or when he had to earn his place when Jürgen doubted his place in the starting XI. Here’s to 100 more caps General Bradley!

  7. He eptimoizes how we should develop players in this country. MB did countless hours of repetition skill training between the ages of 6-13, got into countless competitive pickup games against older kids/men as a kid and was coached by the best coaches.

    • Having Bob as his dad, which gave him the opportunity to do those things growing up, did not hurt.

      Mikey made the most of it but not every kid has that kind of access.

      • No, that’s true, GW. But most kids could kick around a little more than their twice weekly team practice. Even if any given kid doesn’t live where he can find pick-up games, there are things he can do. But… most don’t. MB did. Having dad as a high-level coach helped, but MB’s success also is a product of the discipline he brought to it.

      • Absolutely.

        Not every kid with Mikey’s soccer heritage takes advantage of being able to train with and pick the brains of the assorted USMNT type adults that he had access to as a kid.

        Being the person he is Mikey probably would have been
        a pro player regardless.

        But it is foolish to think that having Bob as you Dad and him being demonstrably in his son’s corner did not help.

        Of course it did.

      • This strikes at the heart of the criticism Bradley has faced. There is no doubt now that Bradley is the most important, if not best, player for the US. But two cycles ago, this was not the case, and yet MB played 90 minutes almost every single game he was available. Then throw in the fact that the head coach was his father, and that nearly all fans who have played sports have been passed over or beat out by someone whose dad was a coach or for other bs “political” reasons, and you get an overly emotional tone to the criticism coming his way. I have been impressed at how MB has, for the most part, taken the high road when dealing with the criticisms that were unfair. And also with Bob, who surely knew he was opening the door for the nepotism thing, but did it anyway because he felt that was what was best for the team.

      • jb,

        Whenever USMNT fans whines about a player I always think “ Who is the alternative?”.

        Two cycles ago LD and Clint provided the excitement scoring and “flash”.

        Mikey was not the “best” midfielder but he was the most consistent midfielder and maybe the most consistent outfield player on the team. He wasn’t always great but he was always there and rarely let you down. For a national team there is great value in having such a reliable player.

        Like Woody Allen once said 80% of life is about showing up.

        Mikey’s competitors might have had a great game of two but did not always show up.

        And we all know how 10 seconds of great play is enough to win over the average, easily bored USMNT fan for life.


        Freddy Adu? Get serious.

        Benny, Sacha and Rico Clark were consistently inconsistent. Mo Edu was hurt a significant amount of the time which made him rusty when he did show up. Paco Torres never lived up to his promise. Davy Arnaud, Logan Pause, Colin Clark, Sam Cronin, Dax McCarty were not good enough.

        I firmly believe BB brought in JJ to serve as a mentor for Mikey and if Jermaine had not been hurt.he,would have been right alongside Mikey in South Africa.

        The guy who would have made Mikey a permanent #6 was Stu Holden.

        Stuey was a special player, better than Mikey and might be Captain today and leading the USMNT into the Gold Cup if not for a brittle body.

      • curious, what’s the latest with Stu? will he be back for this coming season? he’ll be 32 next world cup yet with less mileage (optimism…) so perhaps he could be a sub option? perhaps at least in the Confed Cup, should we qualify.

  8. What Bradley’s career shows is that there are some followers of the US who0 will complain about anything. Hey, SBI, I’m kind of surprised and disappointed that you don’t yet have a Who Should the US Start Against Honduras article? Since we are playing at home, I think we should have an attack minded line up.
    Altidore and Dempsey up top, Zardes on the left, Bedoya on the right wing, Bradley as CAM, Beckerman as defensive mid with F. Johnson, Gonzalez, Brooks and Chandler across the back line. Maybe put Yedlin at RB.

    • After the World Cup, not that long ago mind you, Mikey was as popular as the IRS.

      Now he is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

      • I can remember the same villain to hero arc with Bedoya, Beckerman, and Jones.

        Donovan and Howard experienced a hero/villain/hero reception.

        Altidore has experienced a hero to villain decline.

        Fans are funny.

  9. When he retires he will be a top 5 US player we ever produced

    I wish he was still in Europe. He is to good for MLS

    • I get the perspective, certainly… but there is something to be said for MB now being a central figure at both club and country level. At Roma, MB was always going to be a fringe starter– the fortunes of the team would never depend on the form of Michael Bradley. If he didn’t barge his way into the role of “automatic starter” at Roma (and it didn’t look likely), we’d always have the risk of a club captain who was not even playing regular minutes at the club level. Not ideal.

      Bradley now faces a similar challenge in both of his roles. He is a leader, a surefire starter, and a critical cog in teams trying to do things they have never done before. It’s a massive challenge, but also a massive opportunity. Look at Diego Maradona or even Michael Jordan– playing in historically unfancied teams, alongside largely inferior talent. It is what he makes of it… he has a chance on both fronts to achieve real and memorable things, perhaps well in excess of simply being a role player or passenger on a top European club.

      I think it’s a good thing that our captain, whoever it may be, is used to having the fortunes of his club on his shoulders. This was not a likely situation had Bradley stayed in Europe.

      • Can’t really say that MJ played along side inferior talent. That Bulls team went on to the conference finals the year after Jordan left.

    • odd that a player to good for a league cant take his team to the playoffs in a league that half the teams achieve this….

      • for the record, last season they were in the playoffs until the final few weeks (coincidentally when Defoe stopped playing and Gilberto as well). Currently they’re slotted in the playoffs with 5 games at hand. I get your point but don’t act like TFC were/are a version of Chivas USA where they are bottom dwellers with no chance of the playoffs.

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