One of the main goals for the United States in the 2018 World Cup cycle is to learn to set the tone of a game against world-class competition. The U.S. has a reputation for being a strong competitor that can challenge the world's best on any given day, but the fact the team averaged just 42.3 percent possession during the 2014 World Cup -- ranking 31st out of 32 teams -- suggests that the Americans are not able to consistently dictate the pace of the game against strong opposition. We saw this trend again in the team's recent friendly against Denmark, where the U.S. ended the first half with just 35 percent of the game's possession before climbing back to 48 percent by the end of the game.
The catalyst for improving U.S. possession is holding midfielder Michael Bradley. The Toronto FC midfielder led the U.S. with 59 touches per 90 minutes during the World Cup and has led the team with 58 completed passes per 90 minutes in his four friendly appearances during the new World Cup cycle.
This ability to link with teammates from a central position makes it important for U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann to surround Bradley with the right pieces to make the U.S. a better team in possession. Here is a look at what Bradley brings to the U.S. along with a breakdown of which formation and central midfield partners work best with his playing style.
Bradley's midfield value
Bradley is often the first option that U.S. players look for when the team gains possession, and is responsible for dictating the pace of the game with his passing and movement through the center of the field. This presence was evident in the World Cup, where Bradley led the U.S. with per-90-minute averages of 59 touches and 46 passes completed....