Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Michael Bradley will not be on the field when his U.S. Men’s National Team teammates take on Mexico in a highly-anticipated World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night.
He won’t be very far from it, though.
Despite sustaining a Grade 2 left ankle sprain that ruled him out of last Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica and Tuesday’s bout with El Tri, Bradley has chosen to stick around with his U.S. teammates instead of heading immediately back to AS Roma.
Bradley was seen walking around the field at Crew Stadium without crutches or a brace during the Americans’ practice session on Wednesday afternoon and took some time to speak to the media to about his decision to stay with the U.S., something that the veteran midfielder clearly values.
“For me now, the main focus has still been being around the guys, being around the group,” said Bradley, who is the only U.S. player of the four unavailable ones for Tuesday’s match to remain with the team. “Just helping in any little way I can (to) make sure that as a team we’re ready to step on the field tomorrow night.”
Bradley said the ankle, which he injured while doing shooting drills late in pre-game warm-ups prior to the U.S.’s 3-1 loss to Costa Rica last Friday, is feeling good and improving with each passing day. But he also expressed some displeasure with having to miss such vital games in the Americans’ qualifying campaign.
“On a personal level, disappointing,” said Bradley. “As a player, as a competitor, you want to be on the field all the time, you want to be out there when the stakes are at their highest, so to miss these two games is for sure disappointing. Having said that, I’m not the first guy to miss some big games with an injury. I won’t be the last.
“That’s part of what we do, that’s part of dealing with things.”
One of the things Bradley had to do as a result of the injury is speak to AS Roma to discuss his plan for recovery and desire to remain with the U.S. a few more days. Roma ultimately agreed to that approach, deciding that leaving Bradley stateside a little while longer was the best course of action to let him recover.
“I needed to speak with them because, look, it’s my club team, it’s where I am every day,” said Bradley. “I spoke to the doctor there and spoke to them and made it clear that on my end, to be able to be around here for a few days, being able to get good treatment given that we’re in the hotel, having the ability to literally get treatment 24 hours a day, and in the first few days of an ankle sprain those are the most important.
“The ability to get those days of treatment without having to fly and then being able to be around the group for such an important few days before a big game, that was important to me and they understood. From a standpoint of getting my ankle back to 100 percent, they agreed that this was the best way to do it.”
With the 26-year-old Bradley out against Mexico, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have to turn to any one of Kyle Beckerman, Jose Torres or Mix Diskerud to partner with Jermaine Jones in central midfield. That decision will be a big one for the U.S., as El Tri are expected to try and attack from the opening whistle as they search for three much-needed points.
Whoever it is, Bradley is confident that the job will get done.
“The national team is bigger than any player, it’s bigger than any coach, it’s bigger than any of us,” said Bradley. “So the idea that we have a group that on any given day is ready to rise to the challenge at hand and there’s 11 guys on the field, and a bunch more on the bench, and a bunch more who are maybe sitting at home watching on TV, that feel a part of it, are a part of the group, and are ready to give everything they have for the team.
“That’s what our team is about. When you step on the field in the biggest games, you need every guy to be committed to giving everything they have for the team. I’m sure we’ll have a team full of those guys tomorrow night.”