Michael Bradley: “When you go through the moments when things don’t go your way, there’s no time to feel sorry for yourself, there’s no time to stop.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
NEW YORK — Sometimes it’s not if you lose, it’s how you bounce back from devastating defeats.
Within a month’s time, Michael Bradley was slapped in his professional soccer face not once, but twice.
During a five-day span in November, the captain of the U.S. national team saw the Red, White and Blue stumble to a worst-case scenario in the CONCACAF Hexagonal. The side lost for the first time at home in a generation to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio — home of the dos a cero — on a last-minute goal, 2-1 and then getting humiliated in Costa Rica via a 4-0 defeat.
Despite hosting and dominating the MLS Cup in December, Bradley’s Toronto FC fell to the Seattle Sounders in a shootout.
Today, a more determined Toronto FC is not only playing well, but running away with the Supporters Shield crown with an astounding 16-3-8 mark and 56 points, nine points ahead of its closest competitor, New York City FC (14-7-5, 47) with seven games remaining in the regular season.
On the national front, the Americans have bounced back under new head coach Bruce Arena, going undefeated overall and in World Cup qualifying at 2-2-0, winning at home and tying on the road.
The USA hopes to add another home win to its total when it hosts the Ticos at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. Friday night.
“When you go through the moments when things don’t go your way, there’s no time to feel sorry for yourself, there’s no time to stop,” Bradley said Tuesday. “We had conversations in Toronto at our training ground the morning after we lost in the final. We wanted the season to begin the next day.
“There was a similar feeling in January camp when we started with this group. We understood that we let a few things get away from the U.S. national team at the end of the year. There was big motivation that we put things right. We all understand that getting to a World Cup is a pass or fail.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter who the coach is, nothing else matters. It’s our responsibility as players, to step onto the field and make sure we find the right ways to do whatever it takes to qualify. I think the group responded to that in a real good way.”
Bradley has been pleased with the record on both fronts, but he is light years away from celebrating or feeling satisfied.
“It’s been a good year so far,” he said. “But I also understand that we haven’t done anything yet. We have not done anything yet with the national team in terms of qualifying; obviously the Gold Cup was a big moment for us. And we haven’t done anything with Toronto yet. So the biggest games still to come. The big prizes are still coming and as long that’s still the case, I’m going to keep along.”