BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, August 9, 2011
When the US national team camp opened up on Sunday, perhaps the player with the most questions surrounding him was midfielder Michael Bradley.
Bradley, 24, arrived in camp a week after his father was fired as the US national team head coach and with his club situation at Borussia Monchengladbach in limbo.
Despite this, Bradley is very excited for the new era of US Soccer under new head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
"We're really excited," Bradley said Tuesday in Philadelphia. "It starts with a big game tomorrow against our big rival Mexico. On our end it's been good, it's been exciting. The spirit in the team, that part is always there. This time around it's a lot of listening, a lot of observing from our end - just to see what Jurgen wants, to see the tone he's going to set, to see how different he wants things run."
Bradley arrived in camp earlier in the week and he is impressed with Klinsmann's leadership from the onset. With more than a year to go until the US opens up World Cup qualifying, Bradley understands the path that lies ahead for the new coach.
"I think right away the tone he has set," Bradley discussed. "He's talked about wanting to build on the progress we have made the last five-ten years and so it's important now right from the beginning we step on the field tomorrow and put together a good performance that shows that we're really ready to move ourselves forward and get ready for qualifying next year."
Bradley earned his first cap for the US national team in 2006 under head coach Bruce Arena. Now after his father's five year tenure, Klinsmann will be the third national team coach Bradley has played under. Despite the personal setback of seeing his father get fired, Bradley remains dedicated to the US national team.
"It's an honor to play with the national team," Bradley stated emphatically. "From the first day I came to the national team under Bruce, the times under my dad, and now with Jurgen. From my point of view, it has never changed. It's an honor to be here. I've given everything I've had for the team so that the team can be successful. And I will continue to do that until one day they decide they don't want me anymore."
As for the personal nature of seeing a family member lose his job, Bradley acknowledged that it's difficult but that it's part of the business.
It's also not the first time he has had to deal with this issue. Bradley played under his father on the Metrostars in MLS when his father was fired. Shortly after on the last day of the season, Bradley scored the game winning goal against Chivas USA that sent the team to the playoffs.
Bradley has grown a lot as a player since that time and he understands that coaching changes are part of the game. He insists he is taking this change in stride even with the personal nature it involves for him.
"In soccer and in life you learn to deal with things that are difficult for people close to you," Bradley explained. "This is no different. It's part of the game. He's doing well. He's a strong guy - nothing to worry about there. I don't think [anybody] would have expected he was going to be here for 20 years. You know that going in. I think my dad, more than anybody, realized that.
"[He] was always committed to working as hard as he could and doing everything he could to help the national team while he was here," he continued on about his father. "The day they decided it was best to go in another direction, then so be it. He's confident with the work he put into it."
On the club front, Bradley is also in an unsettled situation. He is currently in the last year of his contract with Borussia Monchengladbach and is not in the club's plans for the upcoming season. With three weeks to go before the transfer window closes, he is hopeful to find a new club that is a good fit.
"At this point they've made it pretty clear that with me and a year left on my contract that I'm not in the plans this year," Bradley pointed out. "They think it's best for both sides if I find a new club. It is important now for my career to find a club where they see the qualities in me as a player, as a person where they're excited to have me and I can establish myself."
With all that is unsettled, Bradley has found relief in being back with the national team and training with a team where he is comfortable and has succeeded.
"It's nice in the midst of a busy stretch or a crazy stretch to come in and have a few days of good training and see some familiar faces."