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U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM

June 23, 2014
DEFENDING HIS STAR
Klinsmann backs Bradley after a difficult night

By Michael Lewis
Big Apple Soccer Editor

Michael Bradley: “I put my heart and soul into every game, every time I step on the field. There are certainly no regrets in my book.”
Michael Bradley: “I put my heart and soul into every game, every time I step on the field. There are certainly no regrets in my book.”
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
SAO PAULO, Brazil - After his star midfielder endured two difficult moments that helped define the 2-2 draw with Portugal Sunday night, United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann defended Michael Bradley.

Bradley missed a sitter early in the second half and lost the ball in the final minute as the Portuguese equalized only seconds later in the Group G encounter.

“Michael is undoubtedly one of our key players and I think he showed that tonight," Klinsmann said. "He has an engine that is unbelievable. He’s covering up for other players all over the place. His vision and his passing is just outstanding. Here and there it’s not going to be a perfect game all the time. I’m not expecting perfect games from anybody."

Bradley's star was expected to shine in the World Cup, but he has experienced some bumps in the road.

In the Americans' 2-1 opening victory over Ghana on June 16, Bradley played considerably well below his high standards as he experienced trouble controlling the ball and leading the attack as the U.S.'s most important midfielder.

On Sunday, Bradley's game was a marked improvement, but it was two plays that defined the 26-year-old's night at Arena Amazonia.

With the U.S. trailing 1-0 in the 55th minute, Bradley's six-yard attempt was blocked on the line by Ricardo Costa.
With the game winding down in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Varela took the ball from Bradley at midfield and started the scoring sequence that led to his equalizing goal only seconds later.

“The ball popped up, and I was able to make a few quick steps and get there," Bradley said. "It was tight and unfortunately I wasn’t able to make a good enough play to keep it for us or get a foul. At that point the ball turns over and it’s up to us to deal with the situation.

“I put my heart and soul into every game, every time I step on the field. There are certainly no regrets in my book.”

Bradley can put his opening two matches into the past quite quickly if he bounces back with a big game against Germany in Recife on Thursday. A draw or a win will lift the Americans into the second round, and if Bradley raises his game or plays up to or beyond his capabilities, people will forget about his first two games.

"I’m absolutely sure that Michael will grow big time into this tournament," Klinsmann said. "There’s no better stage to do it than in the next game against Germany. Every game you play now is getting bigger so that’s when you want to see those things coming through."
   
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