Bradley is Key for U.S.

U.S. national team midfielder Michael Bradley is one of the most underrated players in the world. He’s an indispensable piece to the Americans’ puzzle due to his box-to-box (offensive and defensive) play, his speed and his agility. While his main responsibilities pertain to the defensive side of the field, he has the capabilities of scoring goals with his rocket shot and nose for the ball.

Bradley’s play gets overlooked simply because he’s an American who chose to transfer from high-profile Italian club Roma to play Major League Soccer for Toronto F.C. With most soccer fans focused on the European leagues and not even recognizing the MLS as a legitimate league, it was an odd choice that took Bradley off the world radar. This World Cup is the time for Bradley to get the recognition he deserves once again.

But in the opening round match against Ghana, Bradley was rather average, which hurt the Americans until John Brooks’s winning goal. His passes weren’t accurate, the team struggled to keep possession, and he simply didn’t make himself enough of a factor in the game. It was a very puzzling performance from arguably the most consistent player on the squad.

Bradley took full responsibility for his poor play when he said, “I’m certainly honest enough and hard enough with myself to know that it wasn’t my sharpest night, but unfortunately, they’re not all going to be.” He didn’t make excuses, he didn’t shy away from criticism, he just accepted it and looked forward to today’s match against Portugal.

To beat the Portuguese, Michael Bradley is going to have to be on his “A” game. He will need to be sharp with his passes to help the U.S. possession game flow, he will have to help contain the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, and he will certainly have to be one of the biggest factors in the match. The fact that the weather conditions at Arena de Amazonia¬†in Manaus will be sticky and wet (88 degrees right now according to the weather channel, with a 70% chance of rain and extreme humidity) make the midfielder even more important. His conditioning and fitness have been praised for years, and they will come into play today. In the second half, when players are starting to become exhausted, he will have to stay in control and help lead the team to victory. As Jurgen Klinsmann said, the team has faced these conditions in CONCACAF qualification and in places like Miami. It’s nothing new, but his star is going to have to be a constant force regardless.

In a situation where the American advance to the Round of 16 with a win, Michael Bradley will have to shine tonight. To beat the Portuguese, aka “the best player in the world and ten other players,” he has to play his sharpest and the U.S. has to be their best. The world will be watching; it’s his stage and his time.

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