BRADLEY EXPECTING TOUGH AUSSIE TEST
Saturday marks the final match for the United States national team prior to their World Cup opener and head coach Bob Bradley is expecting Australia to provide a firm test for his squad.
"Australia is a team that plays very well as a team," Bradley remarked. "They have a great mentality. Their game against Denmark was a fast game. The field was little tight so it made for a fast game and it made for some turnovers. It put a premium on reactions when the ball was turned over. It wasn't a game that had a great flow, but it provided a good match for getting teams ready. We'll try to have the same thought as we prepare."
As for his squad, Bradley notes that one of his main priorities heading into the match is to see how cohesive of a group his 23 man roster has become in the last week.
"We're always just looking to move ourselves forward as a group," he explained. "That's everything from all-around understanding on the field, to sharpness and to concentration. Our team certainly in the last four years has been tested on a high level. We have a good sense of that when we play well as a team, we can compete with anyone.
"As you get close to big games you want to make sure that everybody's on the same page and with the right mentality, excited and ready to get going. I think it just requires a good all-around sense of work, the kind that we have established over this time."
One thing US fans will find is that Bradley plans to do more tinkering before he is ready to divulge his first 11 that will start against England on June 12th.
"I think we have a nucleus of guys that have played important roles for qualifying," he said of his squad. "Whenever you get into a camp, you want to make sure you can assess everyone from the physical side to the form side and make decisions as you get closer, which is the process we have used throughout the past four years.
"We're still determining how to balance it out. A week before the match, we want to move our team forward. That sometimes involves a different plan for different guys. We look at each individual, try to sort out what's best and at the same time keep in mind the group and how to be ready for the big match the next week"
One player who left many impressed in the wake of last week's victory over Turkey was midfielder Jose Torres.
The Pachuca man showed poise and composure while orchestrating the US midfield in the second half and also displayed his ability to strike on free kicks when his effort from 25 yards away in the final minutes rang off the outside of the post.
For Bradley, the improvement in Torres' game has been a steady maturation process that continues to build with each match.
"If you look at Jose's progress in the last few years both with Pachuca and the national team, it's just been a normal growing process, of taking more responsibility on the field and what he might refer to as working on his defense," Bradley said of the Texas native. "For me, it's just an understanding that the higher level games go faster and you want players who are more responsible for everything that's going on around them, more awareness and more commitment. Those are just necessary qualities for players, especially midfielders at the higher level."
The former Princeton head coach also lauded the work done by Torres' club team in helping make the Tuzo a better player.
"Pachuca is very smart in knowing how to develop players," he said of the Mexican club. "The latest step is that he became more of a guy who was counted on for 90 minutes. I think that is important. Also important is the ability to push a little bit further so that at an international level, his all-around awareness and movement in the game continues to improve because more is demanded across the board in international games."
Another player who is meeting Bradley's high expectations is midfielder Maurice Edu who brings the ability to go box-to-box and also strong enough to win possession both on the ground and in the air.
"Mo had a good finish to the season at Rangers," Bradley stated. "It has carried over to this camp. He brings good athleticism to the field and the ability to win balls. I think we have some depth in the midfield, some good combinations, and we'll take all that into account as we move forward."
However if there was one player whose progress is being measured closely than anyone else's, it is defender Oguchi Onyewu who was sidelined seven months with a torn patellar tendon.
Onyewu made his return in the friendly versus the Czech Republic but still showed signs of rust. Bradley feels that the AC Milan man made great strides in the win over Turkey but that it remains to be seen if Onyewu will be healthy enough to start versus the Three Lions.
"I think Gooch as made good progress since we started the camp we had the opportunity to play him 60 minutes against Czech Republic," Bradley concluded. "We were cautious then as far as the way we brought him back for the Turkey match but I thought he had a good second half. We will certainly use him more against Australia and try to assess exactly where that fits in for the starting eleven versus England."