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PST USMNT Man of the Match: Michael Bradley

Nov 14, 2012, 12:57 PM EDT

Michael Bradley, Luke Anthony George AP

Michael Bradley’s place at the top of the U.S. Men’s National Team pecking order is becoming undeniable, with Wednesday’s performance in Russia serving as the latest plank in his platform. A 76th minute volley that careened in off Vladimir Gabulov’s right post would have been enough to take Man of the Match honors on a normal night, but on a day when Tim Howard’s seven saves were kept the U.S. afloat, it was Bradley’s command of midfield that allowed the U.S. to transcend being a Russian annoyance to taking a point from a team that’s still perfect in UEFA World Cup qualifying.

So while it was Howard that administered life support, it was Bradley that picked the team up and pushed them to another memorable road result. This wasn’t be as memorable as beating Mexico at Azteca or defeating Italy in Genoa, but scoring twice on the road against a Russian side that has yet to concede in World Cup qualifying should open eyes. Not only was it a great way to end a successful 2012 (the U.S. posting a 9-2-3 record this year), it was a surprising output for a team that’s struggled to convert possession into goals.

Not that the possession led to goals on Wednesday. Instead, it was some retro-long ball that got the U.S. on the board, with Bradley involved in each goal. In the 76th minute, Bradley’s stab at a ball knocked down by Juan Agudelo nailed Gabulov’s post, giving the Anzhi Makhachkala keeper no chance to prevent the equalizer. In stoppage time, a Bradley ball lofted toward Terrence Boyd ended with Mix Diskerud’s more stoppable but equally well-placed goal.

MORE – VIDEO: Another highlight reel goal for Michael Bradley

But particularly with Bradley, the scoresheet can only tell so much. He was the best of a U.S. midfield which, thanks to Danny Williams’ worst showing in the national team shirt, struggled for most of the day. Bradley was the only midfielder that got forward, and while that may have been a product of Jurgen Klinsmann’s plan, Bradley’s ability to cover ground sideline-to-sideline in the left-center role further distinguished his performance. His 47 completed passes were far better than Jones (27) and Williams (25).

Perhaps the most notable thing about Bradley’s say wasn’t something he did individually; rather, it was the team’s performance in the absence of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. When Michael Bradley was missing from the men’s national team, the dip in quality was clear despite the U.S.’s depth in central midfield. When Bradley was out of the national team, the States offered nothing going forward from midfield.

MORE: What we learned from Wednesday’s result

Against Russia, with the U.S.’s two most recognizable players not called in, there was no discernable drop off. Tthe U.S. looked their normal selves, and while taht still leaves a lot of room for improvement, it implies that Bradley may be even more important to the team than we’d previously thought.

  1. wfjackson3 - Nov 14, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    “Against Russia, with the U.S.’s two most recognizable players not called in, there was no discernable drop off.”

    I totally disagree with this. For much of the game we were very poor offensively and our midfield wasn’t getting it done. Bradley didn’t find areas to attack or players to link up with for the majority of the game.

    Would we have been worse off without him in the game? Absolutely. Was there a dropoff because of a lack of Dempsey and Donovan. Of course there was.

    • Richard Farley - Nov 14, 2012 at 1:37 PM

      I completely disagree, obviously. IMO, the U.S. always looks like they did on Wednesday.

      • wfjackson3 - Nov 14, 2012 at 1:38 PM

        And that is because Bradley/Dempsey/Donovan have played how many games together under Klinsman?

  2. Richard Farley - Nov 14, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Possibly, but that doesn’t change the point. Perhaps they can (and will) perform much better, but there was no drop off from what they have been – the standard referenced in the post.

    I think the bigger qualm with my piece would be the criteria itself. Does maintaining a standard without Dempsey and Donovan say anything about Bradley? I contend yes, but that’s a hard case to make.

    • speedsterofbeantown - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:19 PM

      Yes, Michael Bradley was pretty good in this game, but I still can’t make him the man of the match. Tim Howard’s seven saves kept the U.S. in the game and covered a lot of marking mistakes by the back line. And besides, Bradley missed a wide-open header when he had loads of space in the box that almost made me throw my remote at the TV. Still, I think the 25-year-old is crucial to this team.

      • Richard Farley - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:21 PM

        Admittedly, I had written two `graphs on Howard before changed. (blushes)

    • wfjackson3 - Nov 14, 2012 at 9:08 PM

      I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I don’t think we have an established standard to adequately rely on when comparing the impactfulness of these three players under Klinsman. Considering that the adjustment to his philosophies is a process, having recent information about how Bradley performs in it and not having recent information about Donovan makes this a really tough sell.

  3. tylerbetts - Nov 14, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    This is an odd one for me. Watching the game live, the entire team was missing in creativity, width, and first touch. I felt like Bradley, honestly, was having a bad game.

    But, I thought about it more.

    And, he wasn’t having a bad game. Just a bad game for the standards we’ve set for him. Compared to the best Michael Bradley, this guy was a shell of that and not near what we know he can be. So, the true compliment here is that Bradley had a bad game, by his standards, and still had a very good game, by “in a vacuum” standards. The guy is spoiling us.

    But, despite that, Timmy was the man of the match. Though, I thought he might get a red card for punching Goodson. And I’m not sure I could have blamed him.

    • mvktr2 - Nov 15, 2012 at 6:45 AM

      LOL, red card Timmy for punching Goodson. I’d make Howard MotM also followed by Bradley, Kleistan, Agudelo, Edu, Boyd, and Jones. (only watched the 2nd half) Those are the guys that get a passing grade from me, with Johnson, Gatt, & Chandler drawing non-grade/neutral with everyone else getting a failing grade.

    • schmutzdeck - Nov 19, 2012 at 6:44 PM

      By my standards, which are almost entirely results oriented, Bradley had a good game.

      It seems like you evaluate him on a minute by minute basis and then add it up to see if he had more good minutes than bad.

      I prefer to see how the game turned out. Bradley was probably indispensable in the US scoring their two goals. He was not responsible for Russia’s two goals. I couldn’t not care less about anything else. So in my book he had a good game.

      Howard is a keeper. And that means his performance kept Russia to two goals but if Bradley had not been around, then the match probably ends 2-0, wasting Howard’s performance.

      I’m also not convinced Guzan or for that matter Nicky Rimando would not have done as well as Timmy but we will never know.

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