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.”
Ever wondered what a day in the life of a U.S. Women’s National Team player is like? We followed WNT goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to get an inside look at a day inside WNT training camp, a day that included a weight session and on-field practice.
After a grabbing a quick coffee, the busy day starts early for Harris and the WNT, as they are headed to a weight lifting, the first of two trainings sessions that day.
“The bus ride is always total shenanigans with the people I sit around with. Usually that group is Allie Long, Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger. It’s just fun and good vibes heading into our workout.”
First stop of the day: weightlifting. The WNT usually spends about 90 minutes at the gym, and each player has a specialized workout sheet that is tailored to their needs.
“At lifting I usually spend time on my shoulders and continue to strengthen my back; things I need as goalkeeper. Every day I hit the ground, so I have to make sure my arms are strong. Shoulder strength and shoulder stability are key to make sure my arms are moving well and to prevent any injuries.”
As the team exits the gym, several fans await them by the bus and most players, including Harris, stop to sign a few autographs and pose for a few selfies.
“It’s always just really cool to stop and have a chat with the younger generation after or before training sessions. They’re just awesome.”
“Our van leaves the hotel about 45 minutes before the field players whenever we go to the training. I always have a pre-training and pre-game routine of taping my fingers and hands. It’s a personal preference and to be honest, I’ve always done it. Being at training earlier helps us get some good stretching in, stay focused and it allows us to nail down techniques and work individually and collectively as a small group before we jump in with everyone else.”
For afternoon training, Harris, along with Alyssa Naeher and Jane Campbell, as well as goalkeeper coach Graeme Abel, all pile into a team van and head to training earlier than the field players to spend some time working on their technique and specific areas before the rest of the team arrives.
“Alyssa and I have very good communication and no one has a better view or can critique one another better than each other. If we see something we tell each other and help each other out.”
After training, the players all cool down, chat with each other, hydrate and reflect on the session they just completed.
“We tend to immediately grab our protein shakes. We talk about the day, what we saw on the field, what we can fix, what wasn’t good, what was good and we just overall critique the game in every way we can to become better.”
“Once we’re back in the hotel, it’s all about treatment. Like true professionals, we must take care of our bodies and be responsible to get the treatment we need. Our bodies take a beating from all the impact at training so we take care of it to do it all over again the day after.”