U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley: gradually dropping his guard

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Michael Bradley has been an important figure around the U.S. national team since 2007, when he featured prominently on the Gold Cup team that summer.

Tamping down those ridiculous cries of nepotism proved difficult, even as Bradley’s game and skill set developed nicely since then. (The midfielder’s father coached the U.S. team until last summer.)

Now, only the biggest chuckleheads out there cling to tired notions of Bradley’s deficient game. He really has matured into an indispensable cog in the U.S. midfield. At this point, Bradley is probably a more important figure in the overall U.S. scheme than Landon Donovan – and Donovan has held that unofficial moniker in and out for almost a decade.

But let’s not get sidetracked on a sticky little debate like that.

Let’s just agree that Bradley has progressed nicely as a player and a leader.

And he’s matured as a person, too, increasingly comfortable in his own skin, with increasing balance on the bigger picture of it all.

Still, he doesn’t embrace being the center of attention. ESPN.com’s Leander Schaerlaeckens had a long conversation with Bradley about it.  As Schaerlaeckens says in the article: “There are really only two things of consequence in Bradley’s life: family and soccer.”

That is, talking about himself or anything else extraneous in life gets reduced to cluttering, unneeded distraction.

Clearly, Bradley still has trouble letting people in … but that part is developing, too. He’s getting better about it. Slowly.

It’s a revealing piece, a long one, but worth the read.