With 109 caps under his belt, MNT captain Michael Bradley is the most experienced player in the January camp. Entering his 11th year with the National Team, the 28-year-old assured that the team begins 2016 with a clean slate.
“On the inside of the group I think it’s always important to maintain a strong mentality, and to not let success take you too high and to not let disappointments bring you too low,” Bradley said. “We’re certainly very aware that we let ourselves down in some big moments last year, but that’s sports. You play big games, you play in moments when everything is on the line. One team has to lose, that’s reality.
“We’ve looked back at things, we’ve thought about things. Again, the way we played in certain moments wasn’t good enough but you also in other moments have to give credit to the other team, because they were able to make a play in a big moment that tilted the bar in their favor. We don’t allow ourselves to get thrown into a tailspin. It’s the start of a new year, and there are a lot of things ahead of us with Qualifying and Copa America. We’re excited.”
While the MNT missed out on a chance to qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup last year, Bradley had arguably his best season with the National Team in his 10-year career. He started 18 matches of the 20 in which he played (both career highs), contributed to nine scores by netting three goals and adding a career-high six assists, and was voted the U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year.
The two-time World Cup midfielder is one of a handful of veterans in a camp that features nine players eligible for the U-23 MNT. The team’s first match of the year is on Sunday against Iceland, which last year qualified for the 2016 European Championship in France and will be a good early test as players shake off the long break and finish of the National Team edition of a preseason.
“Lars Lagerbäck is a good coach who has a lot of experience,” Bradley noted of Iceland’s manager. “His Swedish teams were always organized and disciplined, [and] could also play good football in moments.”
The USA and Iceland have met on six occasions, though this will be the first time they’ve squared off since 1994. The island nation is led by former Barcelona, Chelsea and Monaco forward Eidur Gudjohnsen, who has scored 25 goals in 89 appearances for Iceland. The bulk of Iceland’s roster consists of players playing in Iceland, Denmark and Sweden.“Obviously it’s domestic or Scandinavian-based team for them,” Bradley noted. “They have some good players. They’ll be organized and disciplined and not easy to play against. It’ll be a good test.”