COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Was a match that turned into something surreal, something most of the United States men’s national team players had never quite dealt with, a serendipitous moment in disguise?
Did Jurgen Klinsmann’s team bond a little over a match of meteorological mayhem, one that looked more like a backyard battle of will, and a lot less like a two high-level teams in latter stages of World Cup qualifying?
Veteran U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley, one of the longest serving United States men, echoed something that we wrote about yesterday, about something that had perhaps slipped from this version of the U.S. team. As the player pool has improved gradually and as Klinsmann pushed for greater technical ability and a more comprehensive professional approach, did the team unity and chemistry suffer slightly from neglect?
Whether it did or not, Bradley said the team talked about it before Friday’s snowy win over Costa Rica, about making sure that part of the enterprise was alive and kicking.
Said Bradley from beneath DSG Sporting Goods Park late last night:
“We talked about it this week, and we are still talking about it, knowing that the real response would come on the field. As a team on the inside, we talked about it beforehand, not knowing what the game would be like, not knowing how the conditions would be. But the thing that had to be there was the commitment, the mentality, the determination, the willingness for every guy to fight for the guy next to him.”
Bradley said they talked a lot this week about how this version has developed, going back to the semifinal qualifying round, when performances were admittedly less than perfect.
“Again, we talked about the things that always have to be there, the fight, the determination, the commitment. … We looked at each other and said, ‘Listen, this hasn’t been what it needs to be.’ So as we move forward, as the big games continue to come, in order for us to be a team that competes at the highest level, that can never, uh, that has to be at the absolute highest level every time we step on the field.”
By the way, Bradley was foremost in encouraging his teammates, some of whom were clearly ready to get into the locker room and thaw out a bit immediately upon the final whistle, to circle back and go thank the awesome show of U.S. support. The American Outlaws supporters group and all American supporters went through a lot to show their support Friday at sold-out Dicks Sporting Goods Park – and good on Bradley for making sure the U.S. players thanked them.