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Costa Rica loss solidifies Michael Bradley as the most valuable USMNT player

Sep 7, 2013, 12:45 AM EDT

Players of U.S. celebrate a goal during their international friendly soccer match against Bosnia in Sarajevo Reuters

It was on the lips of many US fans minutes before kickoff, but if it wasn’t clear then, it is now – Michael Bradley is without a doubt the most important player on, or not on, the pitch for the United States.

The 26-year-old midfielder went down with a severly sprained ankle just minutes before kickoff against Costa Rica, and the US never recovered, losing 3-1.  And with a player like Bradley, you don’t fully appreciate his contributions until they disappear.

Without their anchor, the first 20 minutes for the USMNT were frantic, panicky, and out of control.

The Costa Ricans were able to freely play through their wing backs from the midfield out wide, and they in turn fed their attackers flooding the box. They tossed men forward with pace, and yet there was no midfield disconnect because of the US disorganization.

Geoff Cameron stepped in, but without Bradley to feed his teammates, it was like a football team trying to play without a quarterback. You can snap it to the running back, but it won’t have close to the same effect.

So where do the United States go from here? Bradley was reportedly on crutches for most of the match, although he apparently could put some weight on his foot. It’s a mystery that Jurgen Klinsmann will have exactly three days to solve – a little more time than the 10 minutes he had to resolve the issue before the Costa Rican tie.

To compound the issue, Cameron will also be unavailable for selection against Mexico on Tuesday due to yellow card accumulation.

So does Mix Diskerud get a start? His lack of experience will prove a major miss in a huge match against a hated rival. Will Kyle Beckerman slide into a defensive role? He can certainly hold down the fort but doesn’t have nearly the passing ability Bradley brings.

There in lies problem. Bradley is the whole package; any combination of replacements will bring you some parts but not the entire deal.

So who do you have to replace Bradley, along with the suspended Cameron, Jozy Altidore, and Matt Besler?

  1. wfjackson3 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:18 AM

    Are you familiar with the scientific method? In this situation, it would tell us that we can’t assign causality to something without isolating it from other variables. Were there other variables in this game outside of the absence of Bradley? Why yes there were:

    1) Donovan starting with the first team in ages. He hasn’t played any or many competitive games with a number of players around him on the field like F. Johnson, Zusi, Cameron in midfield, etc. And it showed.
    2) Fiscal was completely absent. He failed to connect with Zusi at all, and his forward movements were ill-timed and left his defensive counterparts completely exposed. Notice how Gonzo was out trying to prevent a cross on the second goal? That’s a great use of his talents.
    3) Jozy Altidore, our best striking option, the guy with the movement and verve to make things happen, was not on the field.
    4) The following players are recovering from injuries: Donovan, Zusi, Altidore, and probably a few others.

    Does this look like enough isolation in order to successfully assert your claim?

    • Kyle Bonn - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:22 AM

      I don’t understand your point. Sure, these were other factors in the match that went against the United States, but how do those take away from what Bradley’s absence meant to the team?

      • wfjackson3 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:24 AM

        It doesn’t take away from it. It makes it more difficult to measure. In other words, it makes it impossible for us to use this game as evidence that he is in fact the most important player to the team.

      • Kyle Bonn - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:25 AM

        Would you not agree he is the most important player? I’m not basing it solely on this game. All I said was this game solidifies the theory.

      • wfjackson3 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:29 AM

        I think it’s tough to pick a number one in this squad. HE is in the first tier of 3 players, along with Jozy and Howard. But I disagree that this game solidifies the theory. This game is terrible evidence to support that theory. It would be better used to suggest that while our depth has improved, it still has a long way to go.

      • Kyle Bonn - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:30 AM

        I think a lot of people would disagree with you placing Tim Howard in that category after tonight’s average-at-best performance

      • wfjackson3 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:32 AM

        See how important he is? We all know that normal Timmy would have only allowed one of those goals.

    • snooppp68 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:27 AM

      Oh, please!!!!! I’ve heard nothing but disdain for Costa Rica all summer, while the U.S. was on their (FOOLS)Gold Cup run!!!!! “Look at our team, w/o Dempsey, Altidore, Bradley; we’ll kick CR’s butt w/o ‘em” Humle Pie time; The Gold Cup is NOT the World Cup!!! I’ve been reminding the racist, “Ugly ‘Americans’ “: “The U.S. has NEVER won a WCQ game in San Jose”, and the loud mouths snickered. Well, Gringos, on to Columbus!!!!! PURA VIDA!!! LOL

      • wfjackson3 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:33 AM

        WTF does your comment have to do with mine? Did I say any of those things?

      • snooppp68 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:42 AM

        You listed all of the “recovering” players!!!!! More Gringo excuses!!!!! Saborio has been hobbled all year with Real Salt Lake, as well as Brian Ruiz’s chronically injured leg!!!!!

      • gra42 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:46 AM

        I think you’re arguing with the voices inside your head. The only thing I’ve actually read or heard anything about was the “Tears in the Snow” match. I don’t think I’ve heard any USA fans say anything except that Costa Rica is the toughest team in the Hex. “The Gold Cup is NOT the World Cup”. No Sht. That’s why we sent a group of b- and c-teamers. And still won.

      • aarongrayswitzer - Sep 7, 2013 at 9:12 AM

        What you need to get the point across is a little more use of punctuation.

    • gra42 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:48 AM

      And you haven’t even mentioned the two goals that Beasley gave away playing out of position, in Johnson’s spot.

    • gra42 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:50 AM

      And you haven’t even mentioned the two goals that Beasley gave away playing out of position, in Johnson’s spot.

    • gra42 - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:19 AM

      Missing the entire plot. Bradley is important, as are Altidore, Howard, Dempsey, etc. But he’s played poorly before and the U.S. hasn’t always suffered as much as we did in this game. The main plotline was… Beasley giving away two goals because he was playing FJ’s position. Having Bradley in would have made no positive difference in those two goals or their buildups, as I’m not sure Bradley could’ve contained CR’s central midfield in any case. What I doubt is that Johsnon would have flubbed stopping both goals the way that Beasley did, or gotten pressured and pinned in the back the way that Beasley did every time he had possession in defense. Fabian Johnson is unique in the history of U.S. defenders, barring maybe Agoos. When he pushes up from the back we have a tactically flexible team for the first time in USMNT history.

      “Johnson and Beasley have no business switching places against top flight competition. Beasley is a midfielder who understands how defense works and he knows where and who to mark coming out of the other teams midfield. That doesn’t make him a defender, that makes him an ideal midfielder. Johnson is a raiding fullback whose know-how moving the ball forward from the back give the U.S. the tactical flexibility to change a match that it has never, ever, had. That doesn’t make him a midfielder. That makes him an ideal defender.

      The set-up we had was working well for the first time since I’ve been watching US football, since 1990. It didn’t NEED to be fixed. It was even giving some of our mediocre attackers confidence and space to make thing happen.

      To some of you: Told you so. Those first 15 minutes were why Beasley is not a back and Johnson not a mid. You know who you are.

      Fabian Johnson is unique. When he pushes up from the back we haev a tactically flexible team for the first time in U.S.A. history.

    • gra42 - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:25 AM

      Are you familiar with “reductionism”? It’s the error that leads to assertions that, true or not, are beside the point. Such as, Bradley’s absence made a difference in the match, and Bradley is an important man on the squad. Both statements are probably true, and neither describe the reason we weren’t as organized as we have been for the last ten matches or so, and why Costa Rica pressed our back left half like crazy and in numbers every time the ball ended up back there.

    • gra42 - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:29 AM

      Are you familiar with “reductionism”? It’s the error that leads to assertions that, true or not, are beside the point. Such as, “Bradley’s absence made a difference in the match”, or, “Bradley is an MVP in the squad”. Both statements are probably true, and neither describe the reason we weren’t as organized as we have been for the last ten matches or so, and why Costa Rica pressed our back left half like crazy and in numbers every time the ball ended up back there.

      Sorry this keeps happening, when I click on a “reply” to one comment, it ends up getting attached somewhere else!

    • merinarj21 - Sep 7, 2013 at 5:24 PM

      Donovan’s not recovering from an injury. And I feel like he and Dempsey could have done a lot more with someone holding down the middle. But there was nobody to do that. He had some good link ups with Dempsey but they couldn’t make anything happen without that third person. I think this game would have been a whole lot different if Bradley were playing. He was definitely missed. It shook the team’s confidence.

      • outlawsoccer - Sep 7, 2013 at 5:34 PM

        might not have mattered the way costa rica played
        but, Donovan serviced both Fabian and Clint in a
        couple of instances they could have finished the goals.
        Clint hit the wood, and had a horrible PK, so all in all
        this game for a veteran US fan a watcher since the 50′s
        was that Clint is not in form he is clearly past it,
        Donovan suffere because no one finished when he did
        get it there. without Jozy we are in trouble against major
        competition up front, now for defense.
        Cameron was a joke just like Beasley we have a shattered
        back line, our best defenders are central but no one
        will go with 4 central midfielders so we end up with Fabian
        on the left or Castillo but OMG man ol man Beasley LOL
        klinsmann is nuts.

  2. wfjackson3 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:19 AM

    “but without Bradley to feed his teammates, it was like a football team trying to play without a quarterback. You can snap it to the running back, but it won’t have close to the same effect.”

    I take it you don’t watch much football. There are extremely successful teams that base half of their offensive production off of wildcat plays.

    • mdac1012 - Sep 7, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      This is completely off topic, but since you brought it up, I would like to know the “extremely successful” football team that bases HALF their offense off of wildcat plays.

      If you are talking about the Redskins and the 49ers, they don’t run wildcat plays, they run variations of the read-option, not the same thing.

      • wfjackson3 - Sep 8, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        Try college. And living in Big 12 territory during the early 2000′s, I know the difference between a read option (How UT won the National Championship), the standard option (How Nebraska lived during their glory years), and the Wildcat (How schools like GT, K-State et al managed to beat up on supposedly better teams).

      • mdac1012 - Sep 8, 2013 at 3:03 PM

        Yeah, college, tell me the team that bases HALF their offense (your words, not mine) on the Wildcat? K-State and GT do not run Wildcat offenses. K-State runs the read option, at least they have in recent years with Collin Klein and GT runs the triple option. It’s still not the wildcat.

  3. snooppp68 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:53 AM

    You need to get out more!!!! All summer, I read pompous, disdainful remarks about Costa Rica’s team!!!! “Would you like your CROW well done, Sir”????

    • wfjackson3 - Sep 7, 2013 at 9:12 AM

      Pretend like you have been there before.

  4. gra42 - Sep 7, 2013 at 1:54 AM

    Out-coached. Johnson and Beasley have no business switching places against top flight competition. Beasley is a midfielder who understands how defense works and he knows where and who to mark. That doesn’t make him a defender, that makes him an ideal midfielder. Johnson is a raiding fullback whose know-how moving the ball forward from the back give the U.S. the tactical flexibility to change a match that it has never, ever, had. That doesn’t make him a midfielder. That makes him an ideal defender.

    The set-up we had was working well for the first time since I’ve been watching US football, @ 1990. It didn’t need to be fixed.

    To some of you: Told you so. That was why Beasley is not a back and Johnson not a mid. You know who you are.

  5. gra42 - Sep 7, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    And another thing…

    BRadley si said to be pretty consitently doing Yoga during the season, and one of the pictures above shows him doing a common Yoga pose.

    I have this to say: When I was in my 20′s in the Navy, I was an All-Navy camp invitee. I played on the SW region team out in town where we dominated the SD men’s premier and indoor competitions. No small thing! I played about two outdoor games and 3-5 indoor every week if it was busy, never less than 1/3. In nine years of that I had one injury, and that didnt ahppen during the season. I did Pilates the entire time.

    I switched to Yoga for one year and spent about four months not playing at the age of 32. My friends though I was just getting old. Switched back and got my game and health back. Been playing non-stop since with no real injuries, even at 41.

    Static stretches that load nothing but joint capsules are NOT GOOD for athletes or people with physically demanding jobs.

  6. hildezero - Sep 7, 2013 at 3:25 AM

    @snooppp68,

    What’s wrong with you?! Be all happy happy all you want, but at the end of the day, Costa Rica ain’t a better team than the US. I don’t know why you’re saying this “gringo excuses” when the fact is that the Mexico fans are the ones that are known for their excuses and I’m Mexican. So focus on your next game, but there’s no way in hell Costa Rica is winning the Hex.

    • snooppp68 - Sep 7, 2013 at 5:39 PM

      @hidezero, Dude, You’ve got bigger fish to fry than worryin’ about me makin’ some gringos eat some of the “pura mierda” they’ve been shoutin’ all summer!!!! And, by the way, Mexico, for sure, isn’t winning the Hex!!! If anything, Mexican fans have always sneered with contempt at everyone else in CONCACAF; it’s good to see their fans AND the gringos, eat some humble pie!!!!!

  7. outlawsoccer - Sep 7, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    Costa rica has a chance, they will get to the world cup
    the USA is not as good without Bradley but it depends on what Bradley
    is told to do, when holding we are not better than with kyle Beckerman
    but when Bradley is allowed to move forward we are better, and our best
    with him out there.

    its too late for more auditions, Ream Licahj chandler etc.
    we are going to finish the qualifying with what we have and I still
    favor Goodson Brooks Gonzalez and at this point Fabian Johnson
    so I have tall big fast defenders and goodson scores goals, so does
    Fabian. so I just don’t see besler as viable nor Cameron nor Beasley
    nor parkhurst, I don’t see it.

  8. outlawsoccer - Sep 7, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    I would have gone with Beckerman to hold the moment I saw Bradley was out.
    goodson gonzo brooks Beckerman Fabian Johnson this is the defensive line all 5 required
    I am not high on howard I like the way guazan is playing hes hot.

    in costa rica I would have put aaron up front as a false 9
    and had him roam all the way back. I don’t know how klinsmann
    thought he was going to overpower cr with offense LOL LOL
    even after Bradley was out. weak coaching

    TRUTH IS KLINSMANN PROVED TO ME HE IS DERILECT AS A COACH
    PUTTING JOZY IN WHEN IT WAS TOO LATE HE WAS NOT STARTED DUE TO INJURY
    AND HAD THE YELLOW. now hes out for mexico even if hes healthy LOL this is
    on the level of the NY Jets idiotic coach that put his starter in a game during the 4th quarter
    to try to win in a preseason game LOL and hes injured now lost for the season
    this is how stupid it was to play jozy Cameron and besler and talk about derilect besler
    does nt remember a professional foul to bring down a forward on a break away????
    what a fool id bench that dude and jones looked horrible.

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