Michael Bradley calls for 'balance' in new-look United States squad
Midfielder Michael Bradley and goalkeeper Brad Guzan are back with the U.S. national team, two days shy of the first anniversary of the most crushing defeat in the team's history.
Bradley captained the Americans for the 2-1 loss at Trinidad and Tobago last Oct. 10 that ended the United States' streak of seven straight World Cup appearances. Guzan was on the bench as Tim Howard started in goal in the loss.
Coach Bruce Arena quit three days later and the team has been run on an interim basis by his top assistant, Dave Sarachan, who has given debuts to 18 players in eight matches while leaving most of the veterans out until now. The 31-year-old Bradley and 34-year-old Guzan are two-time World Cup veterans and among a handful of the old guard who have a chance to play a significant role in the cycle leading to the 2022 World Cup.
"I think there's a number of young guys who over this last stretch have done well and who have shown that going forward they need to be a big part of things as we start to try to put a team together that can move into a Gold Cup next summer and start to move into meaningful competitive games," Bradley said Monday. "It's important the balance in the group is right and this is another step in that process."
Sarachan has not used anyone older than 30 until now and three players older than 29 but none extensively: defenders Tim Ream and Justin Morrow, and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya.
Bradley, a son of former U.S. coach Bob Bradley, has 17 goals in 140 international appearances and with his next match will tie Clint Dempsey for third on the American list behind Cobi Jones (164) and Landon Donovan (157). Guzan has 58 international appearances.
"They understand what their role is," Sarachan said. "First and foremost, they're competing for a job and they want to play. So their role isn't to coach, their role isn't to mentor, but it is part of the big package of everything when you have experience."
The U.S. plays Colombia on Thursday in Tampa and Peru on Oct. 16 at East Hartford, Connecticut.
"The timing was right," Sarachan said. "It's going to be real good to have a few of the veterans like Michael and Brad in the mix with this group. We're talking about a group here that has collectively over 400 caps and Michael has 140 caps. That's a valuable resource to have."
New U.S. general manager Earnie Stewart is leading the search for a new coach. Sarachan could remain in charge of the team for exhibitions next month at England and against Italy at a European site to be announced. The Americans do not have a competitive match until the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June.
"It's exciting as you move into the end of this year and into next year, we start to put everything that has gone on over the last year completely behind us and you start to look forward again to Gold Cups, eventually World Cup qualifying," Bradley said. "The period after a World Cup is always interesting. In our case after a World Cup you don't qualify for, you're playing some friendly games but obviously it can feel like real meaningful games are a long time away."
A trio of top young midfielders is hurt and has been dropped from the roster: 20-year-olds Christian Pulisic (torn calf muscle) and Weston McKennie (right adductor muscle), and 19-year-old Tyler Adams (back spasms). Pulisic has played once for the national team since the loss at Trinidad.
"This is the nature of the national team," Sarachan said. "Guys get hurt, guys have to miss. We think the depth pool is a good depth pool, and now it's an opportunity for some other guys to step in."
New York City FC left back Ben Sweat is back home for his first national team call-up. The Palm Harbor, Florida, native attended the University of South Florida, site of Monday's workout.
"It's a special moment for myself, my wife, friends, family," Sweat said. "To be back at my old school, it's a dream come true. I'm bit emotional about it."