Michael Bradley played in the colors of the U.S. in a full international match for the first time on May 26. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
It was 14 years ago today that Michael Bradley made his first appearance for the U.S. national team in an international friendly. FrontRowSoccer.com editor Michael Lewis was in Cleveland for the match and this website is posting both his stories, prior and after the game.
By Michael Lewis
CLEVELAND– This year has been quite a memorable one for former MetroStars midfielder Michael Bradley and it could get even more memorable on Friday night.
Bradley, 18, sat the bench for the U.S.’s 1-0 World Cup send-off tour loss to Morocco in Nashville, Tenn. on Tuesday, although he didn’t play. He is expected to be on the pine for the start of Friday’s encounter with Venezuela at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
While coach Bruce Arena definitely has his sights set on preparing the team for Germany, it would not be out of the question if he gives Bradley his first full cap late in the match, especially if the U.S. is winning.
Arena has a history of giving players their first cap in the waning minutes of a match. For example, he did it with former MetroStars forward John Wolyniec after a solid training camp in 2004. Wolyniec is now with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Bradley, the son of former Metros and current Chivas USA coach Bob Bradley, signed with Heerenveen of the Dutch First Division and became a regular on its full side, helping the team qualify.
He was called into U.S. World Cup training camp by Arena earlier this month and worked out with the team in Cary, N.C.
“I am happy for him,” Bob Bradley told BigAppleSoccer.com last week. “To go to a club in Europe and to establish yourself very quickly, earn the respect of the coaches and your teammates, so that you’re playing and starting in the most important games of the season, that says a lot.
“For me, it’s just with what we saw the last two years, especially last year. He’s got a strong mentality, understands the game. He plays well beyond his years. I really felt that last year as the season moved along that he got stronger and stronger. And that’s not something you see that often with young players in MLS, especially with ones who are asked to cover that much ground and be a factor in the center of the field, where things are really hard.”
Michael turns 19 on July 31.
“The fact that he can go there and show the people at Heerenveen all that right away, I think is something that he should feel very good about,” Bob said. “Certainly, we’re very proud of him.”
And here is the story about Bradley’s first cap:
A NIGHT CAP: Bradley makes 1st international appearance
By Michael Lewis
CLEVELAND — What better way for former MetroStars midfielder Michael Bradley to cap off a memorable season Friday night than with an actual cap?
Bradley made his first full international appearance for the U.S. National Team in the waning minutes of its 2-0 World Cup warm-up win over Venezuela at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Bradley, just back from helping Heerenveen of the Dutch First Division qualify for the UEFA Cup, said that he felt “obviously just really excited. I didn’t have any expectations coming into camp. I just wanted to come in and work hard and help make the camp better and try to earn the respect of the coaches, my teammates. To get onto the field tonight, it was really special.”
Bradley, who turns 19 on July 31, had been invited to U.S. training camp in Cary, N.C. by coach Bruce Arena and acquitted himself well.
“I never thought he’d get a cap under me,” said Arena, who has known Bradley for most of his 18 years.
“He’s been working hard and he’s one of our young professionals that has played well. Ben’s got some cramps and it made sense to get him in there. He’s played quite well in training.”
There was some drama as to whether Bradley was going to get into the match.
Bradley was ready to enter the match in the 82nd minute, but a series of unusual events, including defender Carlos Bocanegra’s red card, made him wait for his grand opportunity.
“It was pretty long,” Bradley said with a smile. “The ball wouldn’t go out of bounds, red card, injury. But it all worked out in the end.”
Before he entered the match, Arena walked over to Bradley, standing at the midfield line, and shook his hand.
“Go on, enjoy it,” Bradley said Arena told him. “Obviously at that point, know the score and do what I needed to do to make sure we got out off the field with a win.”
Landon Donovan even congratulated Bradley, who said he enjoyed every minute of it.
“It’s not really stuff I think about too much,” he said. “I just try to play. As things come, take them as they come. The whole experience the last two weeks was great. I feel like I have improved. Tonight to get on the field was unbelievable.”
Bradley will take some time off to visit friends and family in New Jersey and his father Bob — the former MetroStars coach who is now coaching Chivas USA in Carson, Calif. before returning to the Netherlands for pre-season training at the beginning of July.
He also might visit U.S. Under-20 national coach Thomas Rongen. “Obviously, I want to keep myself playing,” he said. “I’ll see how it goes.”