Bradley faces high expectations at World Cup

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 24, 2014 at 2:04 pm •  Published: June 24, 2014
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SAO PAULO (AP) — Michael Bradley stuck out his right foot to meet Fabian Johnson's pass, ready to slot the ball into the empty net from 6 yards out. Surely this would be a goal.

Then the ball struck Portuguese defender Ricardo Costa on a knee in front of the goal line and ricocheted away. Bradley stopped at a post, put a hand on each cheek and closed his eyes in shock, as if he had seen a ghost.

It's been that type of World Cup for the U.S midfielder.

His night would get even worse when he was stripped of the ball late in stoppage time, leading to Portugal's tying goal in Sunday night's 2-2 draw.

"In the game there's a million of these kind of plays," the 26-year-old Bradley said afterward in the bowels of Arena da Amazonia.

The U.S. may need at least a tie Thursday against three-time champion Germany to reach the knockout stage of consecutive World Cups for the first time and keep the record number of fans tuned in back home. Teammates count on Bradley's end-to-end play both to drive the attack and stiffen their defense.

Bradley ran 13,922 yards (12,730 meters) against Ghana and 13,346 (12,204) versus Portugal, according to FIFA. Among players with two games, only Australia's Matt McKay covered more.

Much has been expected of Bradley ever since he trained with the national team for the first time before the 2006 World Cup, when coach Bruce Arena gave the then-18-year-old his national team debut against Venezuela.

He became a regular during the next four-year cycle when his dad, Bob Bradley, took over as coach. And by the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he had transformed into one of the top American players, part of the spine along with Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard. He scored the tying goal against Slovenia, helping the Americans reach the second round.

But in this year's opener against Ghana, he had little impact in the match when compared with his past performances. That was despite completing 42 of 56 passes, both team highs.

"I'm certainly honest enough and hard enough with myself to know that it wasn't my sharpest night, but unfortunately they're not all going to be," he said. "I think as a team we realized at a certain point that it wasn't going to be a night making a million passes or necessarily playing the most beautiful soccer, but it was about running and tackling and closing down and making the game hard on Ghana."

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