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Michael Bradley responds to Alexi Lalas’ USMNT criticism


Alexi Lalas’ criticism of the U.S. Men’s National Team made waves over the weekend, and the team’s captain became the first to respond to Lalas’ criticisms on Wednesday.

Michael Bradley was asked about Lalas’ recent comments, which called out the USMNT following a frustrating September international break that included a loss to Costa Rica and a draw in Honduras. Lalas directed criticism at Bradley, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Geoff Cameron, signaling out the team’s leaders with World Cup qualification in danger while calling the team “a bunch of soft, underperforming, tattooed millionaires”.

“Part of being an athlete, a competitor is understanding that everybody has an opinion, especially in the world today,” Bradley said, according to Sportsnet. “Everybody has a platform to fire off a hot take whenever they want. It’s life. You’re in the wrong business if that throws you off.

“You use it in the right ways, you use it as motivation. You make sure you don’t forget who the [people] along the way are who had a lot to say. One of the recent [sayings] that I’ve seen that I like is, ‘The lion doesn’t care about the opinion of the sheep.’ I’ll leave it at that. …. It’s pretty fitting.”

Bradley’s club head coach, Greg Vanney, also opted to weight in. A former USMNT defender himself, Vanney understands the rigors of CONCACAF qualifying, much like Lalas does.

“Those of us who’ve played in CONCACAF [like Lalas] understand the challenges of playing in CONCACAF and qualifying [for the World Cup]. Having said that, I think he did what he wanted, which was to draw attention to himself and his media outlet.

“Otherwise, if you want to make a statement to someone, pick up the phone and call some of those guys … You have that kind of ability to do that because of your position within U.S. Soccer in the past. If you’re really upset, then call somebody and have a conversation with them. I don’t buy into the ‘make a lot of noise’ stuff. That for me is, whatever, that’s about you, it’s not about them.”

Vanney went on to say that Lalas didn’t offer anything constructive in his criticisms.

“If you ask [the U.S. players], I would say they expect more of themselves. They expect that they should be in a position to qualify,” Vanney added. “They have all of the same expectations. But to just say those things is not to give solutions, it’s nothing. Our policy here [at TFC] is have solutions – just don’t call out and bark out all the problems. Have solutions, and if you don’t have solutions, don’t be the guy that sits on the sidelines and starts rambling about stuff.

“Sometimes for me it’s more than just work rate, sometimes it’s more than just ‘you got to play better.’ It’s how, why? Doing what? What are the actual solutions to this? The rest of it is just banter, nonsense. Have a real solution.”

The USMNT returns to action against Panama in Orlando before closing World Cup qualifying in Trinidad & Tobago.


  1. First, Lalas is a midget when it comes to soccer brains. He succeeded as a player only because he was a brute. His commentary is reliably brutish and wrong.

    Everyone in the US is pretty disappointed with the performance of the USMNT in qualifying, but Lalas’s comment that it has to be better is just meaningless. He offered nothing in the way of tactics or personnel changes that he thinks would improve things.

    Saying it has to be better is not a strategy or even a motivational approach it is more like look at me, I’m so smart. Lalas is less than average in his analysis and generally prefers to be an instigator rather than a thoughtful commentator.

    In short if Alexi said it, it is probably wrong.

  2. Ace and Adam,
    Lalas had about a minute of time to do his weekly rant segment before the start of the 2nd half. It would be hard to be to constructive in that time. He does an almost daily podcast on periscope where he goes into much more depth on topics provided by fans. However, no one covers anything he says on those because it’s not on national tv. The Q&As are sometimes interesting and sometimes nauseating.

  3. Arena put out two different sides who looked like they never played together before. That’s squarely on him. “Play better” directed at the players misses the point. The US manger has to extract more from the collective than the individual talent might otherwise allow. Arena’s collective performed worse than the talent at his disposal Its on him to fix that.

  4. So far, the hex has proven that we are currently the third best team in the region. Mexico has, what, 7 or so players playing in champions league. They currently have more talent, and it’s not really even close. Even Costa Rica has more champions league players, and let’s not forget that their pack-it-in, counterattack game was good enough to get them to the world cup quarterfinals last cycle. We are in a lull in terms of player talent this cycle. Our best players are either a couple years past their prime or a couple of years away from hitting their prime. I honestly think it’s as simple as that. That said, we do have some interesting pieces, but seem to lack something (like a bigtime midfield presence) to link them together.

  5. Bradley can say that he doesn’t let it bother him, but clearly it did. Alexi is right, and people know it. He’s not going to call each of them on the phone…that’s absurd. He gave the solution…get better leadership.

  6. I think this team is more talented than any they have had but did people think every other country would not get better also especially concocaf with a lot of their players leaving their leagues and landing in MLS. I’m not saying the MLS is a top league but it’s probably better than what they were playing in 15 years ago. I think some teams have caught up and that should push Americans to push themselves and want to play at high levels.

    • I don’t doubt that many of the Concacaf teams are much better than they were 15-20 years ago. Having said that, there is absolutely no reason we should be in such a bad position in qualifying. We only have to finish above Panama, T&t and Honduras to qualify for the World Cup….. The bar is not being set too high.
      People talk about how tough it is to go on the road in Cocacaf… We haven’t made it very tough by losing 2 out of 4 so far. Is it soooo tough to get a win in Panama or Honduras when your back is against the wall OR are we just not a very good team? These are the things a team must do to qualify for a World Cuo. Our path is much easier than most countries. We have the most forgiving qualifying run of anyone in the world. It allows for a team to play like crap against mediocre(at best) competition and still qualify with a few results at home. Time to nut up and get the result. We don’t deserve to be there otherwise.

      • I’d say Oceania is far easier when it’s paired against Asia or CONCACAF for the play in. I mean beat Tahiti, Cook Islands, and Fiji and then win a series with Uzbekistan. Asia and Africa are pretty similar to CONCACAF depending on the pool you are drawn into. Honestly, in Europe there are usually only 3 decent teams in a pool and you have to get 2nd for a playoff. CONMEBOL is definitely the toughest, but even there most teams are trying to win at home and tie on the road.

      • @Johnny,
        I agree with some of your points, but believe Concacaf is the most forgiving. IE: in Europe you must win the group to get automatic spot. Winning the group really requires excellence throughout the campaign. Second place gets a playoff where 1 bad game can doom your chances. In our “Hex” system you can have several bad games and still come away with an automatic birth. You can also play very badly and finish 4th still giving a fantastic opportunity for qualification in a playoff.

  7. Here’s the bottom line. The last 3 times we have played CR at home, we have won 2-0, 4-0, and 1-0. In fact, we have lost only 2 home qualifiers before this last cycle in forever. I had a teacher who liked to say, ‘No matter how thin you slice it, it’s still baloney.” However you slice and dice that game, the US performance was crap. We beat Honduras 6-0 in March. This is not a good Honduras team, not nearly as good as 4 years ago. The US played poorly and stupidly this last game and Arena must share some of the blame for this lucky draw. Soccer is a results business and the US players, despite what Johnny and others say, is by far the most accomplished group we’ve ever had. The only p;layer from 2002 that isn’t matched or exceeded by a player we have now is Reyna. They are not getting the results they should be getting, even with the improvement in CONCACAF. As for Lalas calling players individually, what would be the point? If you want to light a fire and the coach isn’t doing the job (he should be talking to them individually), then the best thing is to call them out publicly. If this were a real soccer country, the long knives would have been out a long time ago and UJS players are lucky they’re not playing for Mexico, Germany, England, or some other nation where they would be excoriated for these pitiful performances.

    • Starting Line-Up vs Portugal in 2002 vs Perceived best 11 by Arena

      Brad Friedel (Age 31) vs Tim Howard (Age 38) Advantage 2002
      Tony Sanneh (30) vs Deandre Yedlin (24) Draw (Sanneh had four years in the Bundesliga and played in CL at this point but certainly not as speedy as Yedlin)
      Eddie Pope (28) vs JA Brooks (24) Advantage Current (but if this is Besler or Ream 2002)
      Jeff Agoos (34) vs Geof Cameron (32) Advantage Current
      Frankie Hejduk (27) vs Jorge Villafana (27) Advantage 2002
      Earnie Stewart (33) vs Fabian Johnson (29) Advantage Current
      John O’Brien (24) vs Darlington Nagbe (22) Advantage 2002 (not even close, using 2002 JOB)
      Claudio Reyna (28) vs Michael Bradley (30) Advantage 2002
      Demarcus Beasley (20) vs Christain Pulisic (18) Advantage Current
      Brian McBride (29) vs Jozy Altidore (27) Draw leaning Jozy on both’s form at the time
      Landon Donovan (20) vs Bobby Wood (24) Advantage Current (Remember LD has one MLS season at that point)

      2002 4
      2017 5
      Even 2

      Pretty even you could sub in Duece for Jozy or Wood but at age 34 it’s highly debatable that that’s an improvement at those spots. If you look at the line ups from Sept. qualifiers it’s probably even closer as Sanneh beats Zusi, and LD beats Morris. I think 2002 would beat the currents in an aggregate series because of Friedel and the midfield would cause the current midfield fits. Hopefully, Agoos goes down with an injury and Berhalter replaces him for the return leg. Oddly, 2002 lost to CR and Honduras in Matches 7 and 8 and needed a draw at TnT and a Honduras loss to Mexico to qualify in the final match of the Hex.

      I’m not making excuses for Bruce or Jurgen there is enough talent, but I get tired of detractors of both managers acting like this line up is hands down the best we’ve ever had.

  8. Bradley has always been very sensitive. He confronted Wynalda when Wynalda criticized him. If it was most countries the media criticism would be 1000x higher. Our players need to toughen up.

  9. Bradley can quote Game of Thrones all he’d like, but he wouldn’t have made it past Season 1 .

    As for Vanney’s response: You don’t need to be in the kitchen cooking with the chef to know you’ve been served crappy food. Pundits, fans, and journalist alike do not need to provide solutions. That’s up the the federation, coaches and players to figure out. As of right now, no one that matters has a solution and that’s a real problem.

  10. Vanney sounds like a pretty smart guy. He has experience as a player under Arena and Sigi Schmid, as well on a club team in the highest division in France. If he keeps on proving himself as a coach, maybe he can take over the US Men’s National Team one day.

  11. I’ve got to agree with Vanney here. There are better and more constructive ways for Lalas to get his point across to this generation of USMNT players. However, this is the best way for him to call attention to himself….which he did….which I think we’ve all come to expect from him.

    • Lalas will be the first one to admit it, he is a tv analyst and an entertainer. He did what he did for clicks and retweets – nothing wrong with that, does not take away from the fact that he went on this rant because he is incredibly passionate about this team and this generation of well paid, talented US players and coaches lack the grit, hunger that their under paid, less talented predecessors had

      vanney saying that he should have called the players up and kept this rant offline and offered solutions is embarrassing! as MB said “your in the wrong business if this throws you off”.. and Vanney, I hope Bruce isn’t looking to Fox Soccer for solutions, its up to you coaches to figure that out.

      i don’t like either of their responses but am glad to see them upset by it. hopefully it stirs the pot a bit and gives the whole MLS/USSoccer scene something to prove this fall.

      • The main reason it has spread as much as it has is that it rings true to so many people. We can disagree about the delivery (Personally I think he was just doing his job) but I wouldn’t mind hearing someone say “He’s right we need to play much better. I need to play much better.” and leave it at that.
        I feel like I can sense the anger/annoyance in these responses from the players/ coaches to Lallas. If they were listening to their own words they would hear it, own it and move on.

  12. Lalas was a clownish, freakshow of a player with zero talent. I don’t really care what he has to say, but at least he entertains.

    • Before you call anyone zero talent ask yourself this ” have I ever played Serie A? Have I ever put on my own nation’s team jersey without buying it?” So next time you say Alexi Lalas, World Cup veteran, put some respect on it.

  13. Once again, a misleading headline. Bradley said one meaningful thing. This article is about Vanney and his response to Lalas. Which is fine and is informative since he was a USMNT player and now coaches 2 of them.
    Btw, I agree with most of what he said. Is it self-serving to try and stay relevant? Of course. But I’m ok with the content.

  14. Vanney was right about one thing, “Having said that, I think he did what he wanted, which was to draw attention to himself and his media outlet.”

    That’s Lalas primary job is to draw attention to himself and Fox Sports.

    Lalas could not hold a match to the abilities of the players today. He wasn’t that great of a player.

  15. I think Bradley and Altidore care, they just suck. Michael Boringly is constantly trying to distract everyone from this with his canned cliches and leadery sound bytes.

  16. I’m glad Lalas did this. None of the regular players look even marginally interested at the international level in the past year and a half. Michael Bradley has been invisible for the MNT, save for two good performances, since 2013 yet he is still the captain. Howard is obviously not what he used to be, and I’m so tired of hearing about how great Jozy Altidore is going to be with such a physically imposing presence because in the 8 years we’ve heard that he’s disappointed 80% of the time.

    I know you need continuity in times like this, but this generation was supposed to be the one that made us relevant on the world’s stage and it seems like they just don’t care. Bring in guys who do or start leaving Bradley and Altidore out of big games and see if it lights a spark under them for once.

    • Do you really think the players don’t care? They just show up for the paychecks and don’y worry about whether they make it to the World Cup or not. Don’t care about wins and losses? There are many criticisms any of us can use now that are valid, but this is not one of them.

    • “… glad Lalas said this.” Said WHAT, exactly? He said of a goalie that he needed to make more saves. He said of everyone else, they need to play better and/or score more goals. I suppose it was a great soundbite, but it had nothing of any substance.

      BTW: Lalas had only one WC qualifying campaign (1997 for the 1998 WC). That campaign saw the USMNT with 11 points through 8 matches (the current USMNT has 9 points through 8 matches). The 1998 team’s first 4 away matches in final qualifying saw them earn 3 points. The current USMNT has 3 points through 4 away matches. Therefore, I would imagine Lalas would know first-hand how “easy” it is for a CONCACAF squad to earn a WC bid.

      • And Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras were nowhere near as good as they are now. It is much more difficult to qualify out of CONCACAF now.

  17. Solutions…?
    Like finding better options in MF or calling in better RB options or finding a new manager who can get are best and deepest pool of all time to play well together.

    • JD
      I think we overestimate the depth of the pool. Compare the starting eleven to 2002 and its pretty similar. Players 1-15 are not much better or worse than past USMNT versions. Players 16-40 are probably better and there is less dropoff from 16-40. However, as we know only 14 can play each match. The other issue is the players do not compliment each other (Wood and Altidore being similar players, Bradley needed another CM to be at his best but that requires taking off Wood/Altidore/or Dempsey for Accosta or McCarty). Plus you have the most likely strongest back four of Yedlin, Brooks, Cameron, and FJ who are all injury prone. Think of that 2002 squad you had Lewis, O’Brien, Reyna, McBride, Beasley, and Donovan who were all playing overseas or would be soon and their games all benefitted each other.


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