United States to use 2015 as motivation, says Michael Bradley
Entering the first training camp of the new year, U.S. national team captain Michael Bradley insists that the Americans' sub-par 2015 is something "everybody will use for motivation as we move ourselves forward into another important year."
Speaking on Sunday to ESPN's Soccer Today radio show on KESN 103.3 FM, Bradley said of 2015: "There's no doubt it was a frustrating year for us. We let ourselves down in some big moments, there's no two ways about that.
"Obviously the Gold Cup didn't go the way anyone had hoped; not even being able to get to the final was disappointing. And then obviously we had the CONCACAF Cup game against Mexico in the fall that I think certainly was an entertaining game for people watching, but again we were on the wrong side of that score as well.
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"And so, like I said, it's a frustrating year in terms of results in big games and there's no sugarcoating that."
Bradley, though, is backing the United States to enjoy a bounce-back year in 2016, fueled in part by the opportunity to host the prestigious Copa America Centenario in June.
"It's an exciting year," Bradley said. "Obviously a full slate of World Cup qualifiers, which always are, in some ways, the most important part of what we do, because the World Cup comes around every four years and it's so important for us that we're there.
"We got off to a pretty good start this past fall [in World Cup qualifying] and it'll be important now that we can continue to take care of business and make sure that we put ourselves in position to be in Russia in 2018."
Specifically regarding Copa America, Bradley added: "I think it'll be a smaller version of the World Cup -- held in our country -- and I think in terms of the quality of the competition, the quality of the games, the atmosphere, the buildup ... it's an exciting summer for everybody in our country. We've certainly been looking forward to this for a long time."
Bradley turns 29 in July and believes he can keep taking his game forward, both with the national team and in Major League Soccer with Toronto FC.
"I think I continue to get better," Bradley said. "I was never the most talented guy growing up. I was never somebody who people [would] watch and look [at] on the field and say, 'Wow, that kid's special.' But the thing that maybe set me apart a little bit was my mentatlity and my commitment to the game and trying to always work and improve.
"I've taken those things with me as I've gotten older. And I still think, even as I turn 29 this year, that my best years are still ahead of me. Because I love the game, I love to train, I love to compete. And when you love it, then it doesn't feel like work. There's never a burden.
"I think I still have a lot to give."
As for the newcomer-filled roster U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann has assembled for this month's training camp and upcoming friendlies against Iceland and Canada, Bradley said: "I think it's exciting. We've talked for a while now about the need to start to get some new blood into the group.
"The national team ... it's always a balancing act between trying to have an understanding of what team is gonna look like in a few years down the road when we get to a World Cup but also still having a team that in the moment can compete and play well and get results.
"January is always a great time for some younger guys, for some new guys, to come in and get a taste of what the national team is like from an individual standpoint. ... Any of the new guys or any of the young guys who come in, we welcome them and [will] make sure they walk away with a good feeling in terms of what it means to be part of the national team."