COLUMBUS, Ohio – Happy to report that Michael Bradley has kept his sense of humor through what surely is a blast of bitter disappointment.
The U.S. midfielder, the most important man in the national team jersey for some time now, spoke to reporters just before the United States’ practice Monday at Crew Stadium.
Someone asked for clarification; was it pretty much the last kick of warmups Friday when Bradley badly sprained his ankle, robbing himself of the opportunity of playing Friday, Tuesday in Columbus or probably for another couple of games yet with Roma in Italy?
“After that it was the last one,” he said with a little laugh.
Bradley, wearing Nike high-tops for a little extra protection on the tender ankle, explained that the field in Costa Rica was left soft from the day’s rain. He has certainly performed on soggy fields before, but this time he planted with his left foot, aiming to shoot with his right and simply rolled the ankle.
Bradley talked a bit about the disappointment of not getting to play in these matches, but the importance of him remaining with the team into its Columbus leg rather than returning early to Roma. For one, he said the U.S. training staff offered, literally, round-the-clock treatment if that was required. And he stressed the importance of initial, early treatment of an ankle sprain in minimizing time lost on the field.
“Being able to get those early days of treatment without having to fly [back to Italy], and being around this group of guys for these two important games, that was all important me,” he said. “They [Roma officials] understood and from a standpoint of getting my ankle back to 100 percent quickly, they agreed this was the best way to do it.”
One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.
Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.
At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.
That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:
HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.
AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.
I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.
In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”
HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.
I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.
Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.
The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.
John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.
That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.
Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.
The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.