There’s plenty of praise to go around to the entire U.S. National Team for its back-to-back wins this past week away to Netherlands and Germany.
And while Bobby Wood’s pair of game-winning-goals will certainly be the most memorable takeaways, one player that earned more pointed praise was veteran midfielder Michael Bradley, who Jurgen Klinsmann said, “took it to another level” the last two matches.
“He was the absolute best player on the field tonight,” Klinsmann said of his performance against Germany. “With his experience, he played all over in Europe and back in MLS now, the players really looked at him and said we’re going to turn this in the other direction. The people in Europe know him -- obviously he played in the Bundesliga and played in Serie A. They know about his qualities and capabilities. One thing is you show that in your club environment, the other thing is you show it in the national team jersey.”
Bradley showed those in Europe he could do it on the international level, bossing the U.S. midfield in both contests while bringing his team creativity and composure at crucial moments.
Down 3-1 in the second half against Holland, Bradley made a play to spark the U.S. comeback. In the 70th minute he threaded a perfectly-weighted through ball to DeAndre Yedlin on the right. The Spurs defender centered for John Brooks who finished from close range to pull the side back within a goal.
Considering the circumstances, the Americans could have been content with a 3-3 away draw following Danny Williams’ 88th minute equalizer, but Bradley’s engine refused to settle for the tie. In the 90th minute the nine-year national team veteran made a penetrating run through the Dutch midfield before providing a similar pass in on the right to Jordan Morris, who centered for Wood for the winner.Against the world champions, Bradley once again set out to set the tone on the U.S. effort. Though the USA surrendered a 12th minute goal to Mario Goetze, Bradley, who was making his 98th international appearance, took the reins to pull the side back into the game.
Under pressure following the strike, the Toronto FC midfielder made it look easy when he navigated through two German attackers in the area, then evaded a third to open up a midfield run and laying off for Timmy Chandler at the midfield stripe.
As the U.S. clawed back into the match, Bradley found another moment of brilliance, sending a pinpoint cross from the right to a streaking Mix Diskerud, the midfielder collecting off his chest and scissoring the equalizer back across goal in the 41st minute.
According to ProZone, Bradley completed (52) and received (48) the most passes of any U.S. player, and proved most effective clogging up the midfield, intercepting 11 German passes.
“He was captain, which is something very special as well. People were just thinking holy moley, this guy is just unstoppable,” said Klinsmann.
With Clint Dempsey remaining absent from U.S. camp, the two matches in Europe this month also mark the fourth and fifth straight games Bradley has acted as captain. Both with his play and the team’s results, it appears Bradley is embracing the leadership responsibility, as the U.S. has gone 3-1-1 when he’s worn the armband this year.
“He’s taking it to Germany, and he’s kind of giving the team so much energy and belief that you can actually make a surprise happen. We kind of made two surprises happen within a couple of days.”
CHICAGO (November 22, 2016) – U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati has named Bruce Arena as the new head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team. The most decorated head coach in American soccer history, Arena most famously guided the U.S. to its best finish in the World Cup in more than 80 years with a quarterfinal appearance in 2002 and returns to the job where he amassed the most wins of any coach in U.S. MNT history.
Arena, who will assume the role on Thursday, Dec. 1, will be formally introduced during a teleconference with U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET.
“When we considered the possible candidates to take over the Men’s National Team at this time, Bruce was at the top of the list,” said Gulati. “His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying, and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach. We all know Bruce will be fully committed to preparing the players for the next eight qualifying games and earning a berth to an eighth-straight FIFA World Cup in Russia.”
“Any time you get the opportunity to coach the National Team it’s an honor,” said Arena. “I’m looking forward to working with a strong group of players that understand the challenge in front of them after the first two games of the Hex. Working as a team, I’m confident that we’ll take the right steps forward to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.”
The Most Accomplished Coach in U.S. MNT History
Arena steps back into the job that he held over an eight-year tenure from 1998-2006. With a record of 71-30-29, the Brooklyn-born manager is by far the winningest coach in U.S. MNT history as well as the only head coach to lead the USA at two FIFA World Cups.
His crowning achievement came at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan, where he led the MNT to a 3-2 upset of Portugal in their opening match before advancing out of the group and earning a 2-0 shutout against Mexico in the Round of 16. Benefiting from the experience of his previous World Cup Qualifying campaign, the U.S. MNT advanced to the 2006 FIFA World Cup with relative ease, booking a place in Germany with three matches to spare in CONCACAF’s Final Round. Drawn into the ‘Group of Death’, a nine-man U.S. squad put in a gutsy performance to earn a 1-1 draw against eventual World Cup champions Italy.
Arena also led the U.S. to its second and third regional titles with championships at the 2002 and 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cups, as well as a third-place finish at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup.
A History of Success
Beyond his National Team tenure, Arena has found success along every stop of his 40-plus year coaching career. The Long Island native won five NCAA Division 1 National Championships with the University of Virginia, including a still-standing record of four-straight from 1991-94.
His collegiate coaching tenure led him to his first international job, taking the reins of the U.S. U-23 team leading up to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta where Arena guided the USA to a respectable 1-1-1 showing. Arena balanced his U-23 duties with his head coaching role of D.C. United in the inaugural year of Major League Soccer and helped to turn the club into the nascent league’s first true powerhouse. D.C. won four domestic titles on Arena’s watch – the 1996 and 1997 MLS Cups, 1996 U.S. Open Cup and 1997 Supporters Shield – as well as international hardware with the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup and 1998 Interamerican Cup.
Following his eight-year tenure with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Arena returned to club coaching for a brief stint with the New York Red Bulls in 2006-07, before joining the LA Galaxy the following year. In LA, Arena worked to make the Galaxy the premier club in MLS, coaching the side to three MLS Cup titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014, as well as two Supporter Shield wins in 2010 and 2011. As the only five-time MLS Cup winning head coach, Arena has worked with numerous coaches throughout his time in Major League Soccer, serving as a mentor to many.
A three-time MLS Coach of the Year winner, Arena was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010 and five years later was named the recipient of the of the prestigious Werner Fricker Builder Award, the highest honor that an individual can receive from the U.S. Soccer Federation.Read more