63014_isi_bradleymichael_usmntjt062914153 John Todd/isiphotos.com
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Michael Bradley on World Cup: 'We Want More'

The influential U.S. midfielder has had his ups and downs so far in Brazil, but his effort remains unquestioned and his ambitions are big: Bradley wants to help his team make history.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
June 30, 2014
3:11 PM
MICHAEL BRADLEY HAS been all over the place at the 2014 World Cup—literally and figuratively. Through the group stage, the 26-year-old midfielder had covered more ground than any other player in the tournament.

But his performances have been up, down, and all over the map.

Against Ghana, Bradley acknowledged that he did not play his best game—especially in terms of his passing. In the United States’ next match, against Portugal, Bradley played much better, but his turnover in stoppage time sprung a Portugal attack that led to Sylvestre Valera’s equalizer. In the finale against Germany, Bradley—and the rest of the Americans—found it difficult to accomplish much of anything against one of the top teams in Brazil.

Through it all, however, Bradley’s defensive effort has been phenomenal, and that will need to continue if the Americans hope to contain Belgium’s explosive attack tomorrow (4 p.m., ESPN) in Salvador, Brazil.

The No. 1-ranked player in the ASN 100 had plenty to say about the U.S. national team has accomplished so far, and what its ambitions are for the rest of the tournament.

“The way everything is set up at a World Cup, you come here thinking about the first three games, about the group stage,” Bradley said. “I don’t think many people gave us as much of a chance and so there’s certainly a feeling of satisfaction and excitement as there should be, but we want more.

“There’s still a feeling that now we have more to give, every guy has that much more to find physically, mentally and so we use these few days to recover, to prepare and step on the field on Tuesday against a very good team but knowing that it’s all there for us.”

With so much discussion about the Group of Death in the weeks and months leading up to the World Cup, many American fans tempered their expectations for the U.S. national team.

Bradley insists that, despite countless reports of the slim odds to get to this point, the team always had confidence that it could compete at the highest levels. He expects this mentality to carry over against Belgium.

“The reality is on the inside we have big belief in ourselves,” Bradley explained. “We came into this tournament knowing what it was going to be like, knowing that the travel was going to be hard and the weather was going to be hot and now there was going to be moments in every game that we’re going to decide whether or not we went through and we came through those moments. There’s no two ways about that. When we needed to defend and stick together and keep our lines tight and closed down and fight, we did that. When we needed to score, we scored. Those are all positives, but at this point that stuff is all over.”

“It’s a knockout tournament now,” he added. “You step on the field knowing that game could be your last. You take each game, honestly, minute by minute trying to understand what’s needed, trying to do anything you can to make sure we keep this thing going."

Unlike the Germany match, the United States will get the same amount of recovery time—four days—as its Belgian opponent. Also, the preceding game was not played in the energy-sapping humidity of Manaus, as it was when the Americans took on Germany. So the United States is preparing in a more normal routine.

Bradley has been a key part of the midfield dating back to 2007. He has seen enormous success as a player in international tournaments, where his teams have advanced out of group play in his two World Cups, the 2007 and 2011 Gold Cups, the 2009 Confederation Cup (with a real Group of Death which included Italy, Brazil, and Egypt), and the 2007 U-20 World Cup.

The only time an American team with Bradley did not advance out of group play was at the 2008 Olympics, where the team’s only loss came in a match that Bradley missed due to a suspension.

As a result, Bradley is one of the most experienced American players at major tournaments. He has played for the United States at times when it was the favorite and when it was the underdog—like it will be against a Belgium team featuring the likes of Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, and Thomas Vermaelen.

At this stage of the tournament, however, Bradley says that none of those factors matter. Both teams have fought their way to this point and it will now come down simply who wants it more.

“You get to this part in the tournament and it’s clear that whoever prepares better, whoever is more committed on the day, whoever makes more plays over the course of 90 minutes, whoever is willing to have a group of guys on the field who fight and are so determined to come off the field a winner,” Bradley stressed.

Some might say that the United States 2014 World Cup is already a success. The team survived a difficult group, it has won over millions of new fans with its dynamic play, and hey—if the team can eke out a win on Tuesday, it’s just an added bonus.

The viewpoint on the team, however, is far different. According to Bradley, no one on the team is satisfied and that the players all see an opportunity in front of them with a game where a win could be U.S. Soccer’s greatest achievement.

“Up until now, it's been really positive in every way,” Bradley said. “You get to this point in the tournament and you understand that to keep it going and to take it even further, every guy has to find more. Every guy has to look at himself and physically find more to give, mentally be that much sharper. That's what we're talking about at the moment—the ability to be excited and proud of what we're doing, but still understand that it's not anything yet.

“There's no feeling of satisfaction at the moment. We want to be here for another few games, we want to continue to push and push and see how far we can take this."

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter and share your thoughts on his thoughts below.

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