Michael Bradley is the most experienced player on the roster going into Wednesday’s game in Aarhus, and along with Jozy Altidore played with the U.S. MNT the last time it matched up with Denmark in 2009. He discusses the importance of this camp as the team builds toward the Gold Cup this summer.
ussoccer.com: Where does this camp fit in the building process towards the Gold Cup this summer?
Michael Bradley: I think it’s a good opportunity for us to have more of our full group together. Obviously January camp was a good period for the MLS-based players, and I think the work that got put in, certainly the two games, were really helpful for us as we got going into our seasons and as we started to build into an important year with the National Team. I think the opportunity to have 10 days together in Europe, with two more good games, means that process can continue. It’s an exciting time because I think everybody realizes what a big year it is.
ussoccer.com: It’s a quick turnaround from arrival to the first game in Denmark. What are the things players need to do mentally and physically to be ready?
MB: It’s getting here and getting yourself settled as quickly as possible. Getting good rest, making sure you’re doing the right things off of the field in terms of treatment, eating, drinking and obviously using the few training sessions we have to make sure that the group is ready to go.
ussoccer.com: Denmark is an opponent that many people in the U.S. may not understand as a very competitive team. What does Denmark bring to the table?
MB: It’s a very, very good team. Maybe not the biggest name in Europe, but a team that has big players who play at really good clubs across Europe. It’s a team that on their day has always been able to not only play with, but also beat some of the best teams. So I think for us it’s a great test. Going to play in Denmark certainly will make it even more difficult and like I said, it’s an exciting game for us.
ussoccer.com: The U.S. has several big friendlies in Europe before the Gold Cup this summer. Are there different things to be gained playing in Europe as opposed to at home?
MB: Absolutely. I think the experiences gained playing in these types of games in Europe are really important ones. I can remember for myself as a young player, as a guy trying to find my way in the National Team, that these friendlies at the beginning of a cycle where you’re playing against good teams in their home stadiums and their country, I think they provide big tests. And I think the guys that are able to use them in the right way, push themselves, and know that every play isn’t going to be perfect, every game isn’t going to be perfect, but kind of understand that you need to have a strong mentality and a commitment to keep going, they are able to really us these as helpful games along the way. It means that a few years down the line when we get to a Confederations Cup, when we get to a World Cup, and that spotlight comes on even brighter, we have a group of guys that are used to playing in these types of games. You have a group of guys that are battle-hardened in a way. These are important steps.
A young Michael Bradley evades Switzerland's Gokhan Inler (left) and Hakan Yakin (right) during a 1-0 U.S. win in Basel in 2007.
ussoccer.com: After a post-World Cup period where there has been a lot of transition going on and results weren’t exactly what you were looking for, does it add importance to these games?
MB: You always want to win. We step on the field every time to get a result, to play well and push ourselves to improve and to ultimately win the game. Obviously depending on the timing of a game, depending on where you are in a cycle, there can be a little more or less emphasis placed on some of those things. For us this is a period where now some new guys have been brought in, some new guys have been given opportunities and shown confidence to play and play big roles, and we have to understand that we have to be patient with that. Obviously it’s up to the older players, the leaders, the coaches, to make sure the right balance is found, to make sure that we are holding everybody to as high a standard as we normally do, and to make sure that the level doesn’t drop. We have to make sure that we’re still coming away with the results that we need, but there also has to be an understanding this is still a part of it and the biggest games are still to come.