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.”
My name is Brad Smith and I am the official photographer of the U.S. Women's National Team. I joined the WNT as a full-time staff member back in March of 2015 and it has been an incredible experience so far. For this year in review, the choices I made are subjective and personal. They include on-and-off the field moments, and capture the emotions and experiences that players and fans alike navigated in 2017. Some are also just cool photos, but I'm also probably a little bit biased. I hope you enjoy my picks, and I’ll see you all (more than likely through my lenses) in 2018!
- Brad Smith, U.S. WNT Photographer
"Does it rain much in Los Angeles? No, but the team seemed to have no trouble finding it there last January Camp."
"I’m always on the lookout for something different. Gym sessions are just that.
Then when you add some soft window light to a shadow boxing Ashlyn Harris, you get something special."
"When you practice at a college campus, word travels fast. During training at the University of Maryland,
a deserted pitch soon became a surrounded stadium."
"Winners on the field, winners off the field. While the team was in Frisco, we made a special visit to a local hospital.
Rose Lavelle even got a dance lesson."
"One of my favorite action photos of the year because it’s such a story-telling image. Not only does it have fantastic action,
but as you look over Allie Long to the right you realize the ball is going in for a goal over the keeper. "