World Cup 2014: USA Needs Michael Bradley to Step Up This Summer

By Greg Sulik
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As the draw for the 2014 World Cup approaches, many fans of the U.S. Men’s National Team are focused on who Jurgen Klinsmann will select to bring with him to Brazil. The U.S. hopes to have a favorable draw on Friday, and they will certainly be facing high expectations when next summer rolls around. If the U.S. is to meet those lofty expectations, they will need some key players to step up, and no one is more important than Michael Bradley.

The 26 year old holding midfielder has 82 caps for the national team, and he has established himself as an absolutely vital part of the midfield. Bradley is also one of the few Americans who plays in one of the world’s elite leagues, as he has become a key player for AS Roma in Italy’s Serie A. Bradley plays against world class competition every weekend, which gives him experience that his peers in MLS and Liga MX (the two leagues where most U.S. players play) cannot match.

Bradley is the player who pulls all the strings for the U.S. in midfield, controlling the ball and the pace of the game. He is a steady presence next to the more volatile Jermaine Jones, and Bradley has a calming influence on the entire team. Bradley has excellent vision from his deep midfield spot, and many successful U.S. attacks begin with a pass from Bradley that sets up a goal scoring opportunity.

Bradley is also capable of pushing forward and scoring himself, and he has shown prowess as a long range shooter on several occasions for the U.S. Bradley’s steadying presence is what allows players like Clint Dempsey and London Donovan to be aggressive in the attack, and if you look carefully you will see that they are often released by an excellent ball from Bradley to initiate these attacks.

Bradley is also an excellent defender, and again he provides a reliable presence next to Jones, who can be a bit hot headed at times. The two form a physical, aggressive tandem in front of the back four. The U.S. will likely be starting young centerbacks Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler in Brazil, meaning Bradley’s ability to protect and support them is even more important.

Bradley is not the most famous name on the U.S. roster, but he is both their best and most important player. When the World Cup comes around every team will need their elite talents to take their game to another level, and that is what Klinsmann will ask of Bradley. His play is the key to any success the U.S. may have, and if they want to reach the knockout stages and advance, then Bradley must step up.

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