Featured Matches
Previous
Internazionale
Manchester United
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Real Madrid
AS Roma
1:15 AM GMT
Game Details
Recreativo Huelva
Sunderland
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Sparta Prague
Malmo FF
5:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Sparta Prague
Malmo FF
5:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Slovan Bratislava
Sheriff Tiraspol
6:15 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Debrecen
BATE Borisov
6:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Wealdstone
Wycombe Wanderers
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Frickley Athletic
Scunthorpe XI
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Exeter City
Swansea City
6:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Alfreton Town
Rotherham United
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Burton Albion
Derby County
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Lincoln City
Mansfield Town
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Newport County
Coventry City
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Notts County
Birmingham City
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Portsmouth
AFC Bournemouth
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Stevenage
Reading
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Altrincham
Accrington Stanley
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Cambridge United
Milton Keynes Dons
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Cheltenham Town
Bristol City
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Concord Rangers
Dagenham & Redbridge
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Dumbarton
Carlisle United
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Hyde
Burnley XI
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Kidderminster Harriers
Shrewsbury Town
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Leyton Orient
Queens Park Rangers
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Luton Town
Colchester United
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Margate
Barnet
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Oxford United
Wolverhampton Wanderers
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Preston North End
Burnley
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Sheffield United
Huddersfield Town
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Southend United
Ipswich Town
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Recreativo Huelva
Sunderland
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Valerenga
Stabaek
2
2
LIVE 67'
Game Details
Defensor Sporting
Nacional
12:15 AM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 2
Game Details
Náutico
Icasa
10:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Portuguesa de Desportos
Oeste
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Internazionale
Manchester United
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Real Madrid
AS Roma
1:15 AM GMT
Game Details
Cienciano del Cusco
Alianza Lima
8:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Next

No recent activity

Jun 18, 2014

U.S. needs Bradley to get back to his best

United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann outlines his team's current position in Group G and speaks to how important Jozy Altidore is to this US team.

Before the United States headed to Brazil to kick off its World Cup campaign, the list of concerns for the Stars and Stripes was well-known.

First on the list? Perhaps the defensive inexperience. Or the lack of a true left back. The form of Jozy Altidore might have been there, with a move down the list after his two-goal output against Nigeria. The discipline of Jermaine Jones would likely have made an appearance. Even Jurgen Klinsmann's tactics were questioned before his decision to shift into a diamond midfield with Jones, Kyle Beckerman and Michael Bradley all in the starting lineup.

Nowhere on that list, at least not in relation to the quality of his contributions, would Bradley's name have appeared.

Prior to the start of the tournament, Bradley represented the most consistent part of the team, a true stalwart who could be counted upon to be very good to excellent each and every time he took the field for the U.S. Altidore may struggle to score, the back line might suffer from inexperience and the formation could fail on some basic tactical level, but at least Bradley's presence in the middle would make up for some of those doubts.

That was true even when Klinsmann put more responsibility on Bradley's shoulders by passing him the proverbial keys to the U.S. attack. Instead of lining up Bradley at defensive midfield, where his talents for reading the game and breaking up play are most effective, the midfielder was moved upfield in a playmaker role. For Klinsmann, Bradley's two-way abilities made him the better choice over other options who might be more creative, but less trustworthy defensively.

On Monday in Natal, the unthinkable happened. Bradley played poorly.

At the very least, he didn't play up to his usual standard. Though that might be harsh considering how the U.S. played as a whole, Bradley is rightly judged on a different scale. The Americans can strain to create chances, the defense can suffer from simple mistakes, the midfield corps can turn the ball over; yet even on the worst of days Bradley is a rock, but he was decidedly ineffective against Ghana.

Bradley moved the ball relatively well. He completed 80 percent of his passes on the night, a respectable return for any central midfielder. But it was the missed passes that stood out, the errant balls out to the flanks or off-the-mark 10-yard passes in congested areas.

Michael Bradley will need to improve if the U.S. is to get a result against Portugal.
Michael Bradley struggled to replicate his normal production against Ghana.

Ghana pressed the ball quickly and in numbers, a tactic that seemed to force Bradley out of his comfort zone. After 80 minutes of being harried and harassed, the normally ultra-accurate central midfield maestro -- so key to the Americans' ability to simply possess the ball, much less create attacking danger -- sprayed stray passes without any Ghanaian player pressing him.

The stats say Bradley was steady, allowing for how little the U.S. had the ball against Ghana. The eyes say Bradley struggled, perhaps exactly because the U.S. had so little of the ball. Bradley was both the occasional cause, and the unfortunate victim, of the total team's problems. The loss of Altidore to injury 22 minutes into the match removed a release valve for Bradley, and with less direct options to play forward to and combine with, he couldn't find the game.

Still, the Yanks somehow won the game and collected a vital three points in Group G without Bradley at his best. While the postmortem of the group opener is generally focused on American deficiencies and the rash of injuries they suffered, there's a positive to be found: the U.S.'s most important player played well short of his usual standard and the Americans managed to win.

It's difficult to imagine that Bradley will follow up a poor game with another. More than any other player in the team, faith that Bradley will rebound with one of his trademark all-around performances against Portugal on Sunday is justified. That's significant solace for anyone worried about the prospects of the team moving forward into the deeper reaches of Group G; it will also breed confidence that the team can get the points they need out of their two remaining games to secure advancement into the knockout rounds.

Bradley's 90 minutes against Ghana surprised, but not for good reasons. The Americans have every reason to believe that his next 90, against Portugal in Manaus on Sunday, won't surprise at all exactly because they'll be what everyone has come to expect.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.