Reflecting on Michael Bradley from 1-99, as he hits 100 USMNT caps vs. Honduras

source: Getty Images
Michael Bradley, USMNT midfielder and captain

FRISCO, Texas — Michael Bradley doesn’t turn 28 years old for another 24 days, yet the US national team midfielder is all set to earn his 100th USMNT cap on Tuesday night, as the USMNT faces Honduras here at Toyota Stadium (9:30 pm ET, Fox Sports 1/UniMas) in the two sides’ 2015 Gold Cup opener.

From his first cap won, versus Venezuela on May 26, 2006, to his 100th on Tuesday, simply put, Bradley has already secured his status as one of the best American players of all time.

[ PREVIEW: USA to defend Gold Cup title ]

In the coming years — four to six on the international level, presumably — he’ll make a serious run at Cobi Jones’ all-time caps record for the USMNT (164), almost surely pass Jones for second in all-time assists (he needs nine more to reach 23, though Landon Donovan’s record of 57 will likely never be approached, let alone touched) and easily work his way among the top 10 USMNT goalscorers (he needs four more to reach 17).

But that’s just the tangible part of Bradley’s contributions to the USMNT, and his eventual legacy. From the time he won his first cap at age 19, Bradley has stood apart and above so many veteran Americans who came before and have long since bit the dust. In a word, he’s different.

[ MORE: With the rest of CONCACAF making strides, it’s time for the USMNT to do so, too ]

In a few more words, he’s the following, but not limited to: Cerebral. Intense. Meticulous. Accountable. A leader. A perfectionist. A true professional. The embodiment of that famed American spirit.

“I think it’s a very, very special moment for every player that makes it to 100 caps for his country,” said USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann during Monday’s pre-game press conference. “He still has a long way to go. Many, many more caps to follow the one [Tuesday] night. He’s the captain of the team now, and that gives him even more responsibility. He must also be even more proud of that specific situation he’s in right now.”

When Bradley takes the field Tuesday night and earns cap No. 100, he’ll join the likes of Jones, Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Clint Dempsey, Claudio Reyna, Carlos Bocanegra and Tim Howard, among others. The only thing missing from Bradley’s USMNT portfolio is a signature moment in the way that Donovan’s 2010 World Cup goal against Algeria forever cemented his legacy as not only the best, but also the most clutch American player of all time.

[ MORE: Previewing USA’s Group A | Group B | Group C | The stars of CONCACAF ]

With Donovan now a year removed from the picture and himself recently named USMNT captain, there’s no question this is Bradley’s team. With Il Generale leading the way, the Yanks are favorites to lift this month’s Gold Cup trophy, but that’s more of a minimum requirement for the USMNT these days.

Onward and upward, Bradley is the right man to lead the Americans back to the World Cup quarterfinals (for the first time since 2002) and beyond in 2018.

RELATED LINKS — Relive some of the captain’s best moments in a USMNT jersey

Bradley’s favorite caps —

The World Cup equalizer vs. Slovenia, 2010

A brace vs. Mexico, 2009

A goal vs. Egypt in the Confederations Cup resurrection, 2009

The first USMNT goal, vs. Swizterland, 2007