Dec 13, 2012, 12:45 PM EDT
I was among a small group of journalists who had breakfast recently with Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. national team coach whose methods and player selection tendencies can sometimes lean to the less conventional. The results so far have been mostly favorable, even if the aesthetic hasn’t always risen to expectation.
Over the next week or so, we will extract one element each day of the extremely informative conversation, where Klinsmann expanded candidly on subjects ranging from Jozy Altidore to evolving player roles to Jermaine Jones to future matches and all points in between.
Today’s topic: Michael Bradley’s rise
It would be easy to examine the U.S. player pool and see someone like Geoff Cameron as making greatest progress over the past 18 months. He certainly has rocketed up in the order during Jurgen Klinsmann’s time in charge.
Other up-and-comers have gone from somewhere near the international-level starting line to full speed, too, such as Fabian Johnson, Terrence Boyd, Danny Williams or Herculez Gomez.
But is it possible that the biggest advance, considering tangible and intangible elements, has been Michael Bradley’s?
His starting point was further ahead, to be sure … but look where the guy is today:
Bradley has clearly become the most important player in this U.S. program’s current version, an authoritative cop on the beat, the two-way man who makes the midfield go. He’s the top passer in midfield, a reliable tackler, a standard bearer in covering ground and a man who has become more tactically astute thanks to his year and a half in a league that emphasizes shape, cover and team movement, Italy’s Serie A.
Looking back over Klinsmann’s first weeks and months in charge, there were hints that the coach wanted to see how the team shaped up without the stoic midfielder who had been such a central presence under Bob Bradley, Michael’s father. After a start in Klinsmann’s debut against Mexico in August of 2011, Bradley missed starts against Costa Rica, Belgium, Honduras, Ecuador and France.
The United States lost four of those contests 1-0; the one “W” was registered at home against Honduras by the same score.
Bradley was back in the starting lineup on No. 15, 2011, in what would become Klinsmann’s breakthrough contest, a worthy 3-2 win at Slovenia. Even then, Klinsmann started Bradley on the right of a midfield diamond rather than in the middle.
Bradley was easily the best player on the field that cold night in Eastern Europe – and Klinsmann has not wanted him out of the starting lineup since.
The U.S. coach now says Bradley embodies exactly what he wants from every individual, the constant pursuit of individual betterment. Even more, Klinsmann sees what everyone else sees: a more balanced presence about Bradley now, a married man settled in his personal life, and one who may be freer to stand as team leader now that his father no longer is in charge.
Klinsmann also recognizes this “new Bradley” as a product of routine cycling among team elements, roles and chemistry. Group dynamics evolve with the World Cup cycles in national teams, Klinsmann says.
He also said Bradley’s case perfectly illustrates why players should perennially push themselves from personal comfort zones with their club situations. He respects the way Bradley (and Clint Dempsey, too) has smartly maneuvered through the hierarchy of Europe’s club scene, from Heerenveen to Borussia Mönchengladbach to Aston Villa (on a short loan) to Chievo and now to Roma.
Every stop became a valuable “re-set,” Klinsmann said, another starting point. He credited both Bradley and Dempsey for recognizing the re-set and fighting like mad to rise up, not just to meet the new level but to grind their way to the top of it. To conquer it.
“They have to fight through the whole thing again,” Klinsmann said.
He mentioned how Dempsey is starting at Tottenham, never mind that less-than-perfect launch into life at White Hart Lane, the late leap into Spurs’ season.
“Roma is the same way [with Bradley],” Klinsmann said. “They have two or three guys there that are pretty much on the same level. These are all national team players from different countries.
“So this is what we need, that they carry that spirit and experience back into our camps. And then they can tell these younger guys, ‘It’s not coming automatically for you. You have to work for it. You have to fight through it. Don’t settle early.’ ”
Younger players can learn so much from that kind of commitment to excellence, Klinsmann said. He drew the circle back to Jozy Altidore.
“There’s a whole other level, two or three levels, waiting for Jozy.” He just need look at Bradley for the blueprint on getting there.
Anyone watching the games can see what Bradley means to the product on the field. Klinsmann sees the bigger picture – and Bradley’s contributions outside the 90-minute windows might be equally important.
MORE of the Klinsmann conversation …
- Explaining Jermaine Jones
- Sorting through Landon Donvan’s career crisis
- Jozy Altidore’s recent roster omission
- Looking at the tough friendlies ahead
- The relentless drive for individual improvement
- Never having a problem with being proven wrong
- Carlos Bocanegra’s evolving role
May 27, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT
After leading the Black Cats to Premier League safety, “The Little General” has announced he won’t return to the Stadium of Light next season.
May 27, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Goal scorers, goal creators, ball winners, possession destroyers — the list of top-10 midfielders has a little bit of everything.
May 27, 2015, 2:43 PM EDT
“Today’s events are a disaster for FIFA and tarnish the image of football as a whole. “
May 27, 2015, 2:17 PM EDT
The most controversial figure in world soccer has broken his silence.
May 27, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT
If Aston Villa wants any shot at beating Arsenal in the FA Cup final this Saturday, Christian Benteke must come up big.
May 27, 2015, 1:06 PM EDT
“This really is the World Cup of fraud, and today we are issuing FIFA a red card.”
May 27, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
With the Hoops heading down to the Championship, Queens Park Rangers will have a completely new look next season.
May 27, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT
They say defense wins championships, so expect to see quite a bit of Chelsea blue on this list.
May 27, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT
Atsu spent this season on loan at Everton, and it looks like the Ghanaian will be headed south to the Premier League’s newest club.
May 27, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT
Sepp Blatter has served as president for 17 years and is expected to easily win reelection.
May 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Let’s take a walk through the six yard box with the Premier League’s 10 best ‘keepers for 2014-15.
May 27, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
A press conference is scheduled to be held at 10:30 a.m. ET from the U.S. Department of Justice.
May 27, 2015, 7:52 AM EDT
Texas has been hit with massive flooding that has left at least 19 dead, as soccer takes a backseat.
May 27, 2015, 6:55 AM EDT
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch speaks about the FBI’s investigation into widespread allegations of corruption at FIFA.
FIFA fallout continues: Swiss authorities open criminal proceedings into allocation of 2018, 2022 World Cups
May 27, 2015, 6:08 AM EDT
Mark down May 27, 2015 as perhaps the lowest point in FIFA’s history.
May 27, 2015, 5:20 AM EDT
FIFA officials from CONCACAF region and South America dominate the FBI’s wanted list.
May 27, 2015, 12:44 AM EDT
An unprecedented blow to the upper tier of FIFA’s personnel structure could be the beginning of a sweeping takedown of the organization’s corrupt inner workings.
May 26, 2015, 11:17 PM EDT
Toronto FC has put a “projected Starting XI” on Twitter, one that includes Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco.
May 26, 2015, 10:28 PM EDT
Well, the Premier League season has been over for a solid 59 hours, and we shouldn’t let it get to 60 without digging through the muck that is the transfer rumor mill.
May 26, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT
All-in-all, he’s played for 11 clubs — four on loan — and only one for more than 30 matches (Standard Liege).
- UEFA calls for postponement of FIFA presidential election, threatens to boycott congress 0
- FIFA president Sepp Blatter releases first statement since overnight arrests 4
- Three things we learned from the US Department of Justice news conference on the FIFA investigation 3
- FIFA presidential elections will go on Friday despite arrests 5
- FBI, US Department of Justice issues damning statement on FIFA, details corruption investigation 7
- FIFA fallout continues: Swiss authorities open criminal proceedings into allocation of 2018, 2022 World Cups 7