The day after the U.S. team’s victory vs. Japan, ussoccer.com caught up with midfielder Michael Bradley. Bradley, who plays in the Dutch Eredivisie for Heerenveen, previews Sunday’s matchup vs. a Netherlands team that includes several of his club teammates as well as players he faces in league play.
ussoccer.com: What are you impressions of the Dutch team?
Michael Bradley: “Holland is a good team and I played last year at Heerenveen with three of the guys Calvin Jong-a-Pin is a left back, Roy Bears is a right winger, Gerald Sibon, who is one of their overage players is a forward. On top of that, I’ve played against most of the guys in the Dutch league so I feel like I have a good feel for those guys, which can certainly help us as we move forward, but at the same time it’s on us to go out and play well.”
ussoccer.com: How difficult will it be to recover from Thursday’s game:
MB: "The game certainly took a lot out of us as we gave everything we had, but at the same time it’s the Olympics so I think you always find a little bit of extra energy and extra motivation to make sure at 7:45 on Sunday night we’re ready to go.”
ussoccer.com: How much of a challenge do you think Holland present?
MB: “They have a lot of really talented attacking guys, players like Roy Makaay, Royston Drenthe, Ryan Babel, and other guys that are playing at big teams all over Europe. They are certainly a dangerous team going forward and we have to be aware of that, but like any good team there are also going to be chances for us to play and for us to have our own chances. If on the day we defend as a team and we’re committed for each other, I think there are going to be chances for ourselves.”
ussoccer.com: What’s the mindset with three points in hand?
MB: “With the way the other game went, I think we’re all excited. We have a big game with a really big team and we know if we win, we are through. The focus is 100 percent on going out there and taking care of business against Holland and getting ourselves out of the group. It was a good start, but we’re not there yet. I know everybody is really excited because we have a day to get ourselves ready and on Sunday you can’t ask for any bigger game than that.”
ussoccer.com: Will a counter-attacking style suit the Dutch?
MB: “It’s hot here, it’s humid. So, it’s impossible for any team to be pressing and going 100 percent full speed during the game. They’re going to look to be a little bit smarter, and when the time is right drop a little bit deeper and defend. At the same time, they have a lot of speed going forward with Babel and the guys out wide. They have the chance to go from defending to turning it right around the other way really quickly. They are a good team and whatever way they choose to play it will be difficult.”
ussoccer.com: With Roy Makaay possibly out, what other players are a danger?
MB: “If you start up front, Ryan Babel has shown that for Liverpool he is a very good player. He came on in some of their big games this year, whether it was Champions League games or games in the Premiership and he found ways to make a big difference. So, obviously he’s one of the players we have to keep an eye on and do a good job against. They’re two wingers – Roy Drenthe, who plays at Real Madrid and Jonathan De Guzman, who plays at Feyenoord, they’re both talented guys who are technically good, good at finding spots and then being able to go at guys one against one and either shooting or crossing, so they’ve had a lot of good players. It’s not just one guy, but I think the way we play will help us be successful.”
ussoccer.com: What does the team need to do in the games ahead?
MB:“As the tournament goes along, we need to be improving every game. When you look at tournaments like this, I think the teams that win are always the teams that however they start, they manage to get a little bit better as the tournament goes along. By getting a result when maybe people say they don’t deserve it or grind something out, all of a sudden you’re through and anything can happen. We certainly like the way we started the tournament in terms of three points, we know amongst ourselves a few things need to continue to get better, but that’s the exciting part.”
ussoccer.com: What will it be like to participate in the Opening Ceremonies?
MB: “To be able to participate in the Opening Ceremonies is great. I know afterword everyone is going to be happy we were able to do it. When we were in Palo Alto, a number of former Olympians said that if there was any possible way we could swing walking in the Opening Ceremonies, we 100 percent had to do it because it was something that we’d never forget. So, when the opportunity came up I think felt it was something we should do. We’re excited about it, but I think in the back of everybody’s mind we’re also thinking about the game on Sunday.”
ussoccer.com: How does it feel to be at the Olympics?
MB: “You don’t realize how big it is until you get here. Even with the huge time difference back home, the different text messages and emails and calls from all our family and friends back home, even people I didn’t know were soccer fans, were like ‘Hey, I was up early this morning to catch the game. Congratulations.’ That’s when it really hits home how big the Olympics are and how special it is for people in America. It’s more special when you can keep winning and be successful, so hopefully we’ll keep ourselves going.”