The USA have established themselves at these finals in South Africa as a side with bags of heart and a never-say-die spirit. After a hard-fought draw with pre-tournament favourites England and a dramatic fightback against Slovenia, Michael Bradley – holding midfielder and son of coach Bob – has looked the virtual personification of that determination and fire.
The Borussia Monchegladbach man – mature beyond his 22 years – sat down for an exclusive chat on the eve of the make-or-break third Group C game against Algeria in Pretoria. With a focus that defines this likeable Stars and Stripes side, the topics open for discussion were the dramatic match against Slovenia, his role in the team and the general togetherness in the camp.
FIFA: With two points from your first two games, you need a result against Algeria. How are you feeling in the build-up?
Michael Bradley: We have 90 minutes to get ourselves into the next round. We know it's going to be a hard game, but it's a big game, and as a player these are the kinds of games you love to play in, with everything on the line. We have a big chance to get ourselves into the Round of 16.
You play with a lot of intensity. Does playing at the World Cup bring that intensity out?
No. I try to play like that every time I step on the field. It doesn't matter for me if it's a World Cup or a league match, or training. I am who I am as a player, and it's important to know the things that I do that help my team. I always try to bring that to the table.
You're a holding midfielder, but you managed to score the equaliser against Slovenia. Did you sense something was there for the taking, is that why you pushed up?
Not really. We were down 2-0 at the half, and we knew that we had to push the game. We really had to push the tempo and run and fight and battle for every ball, and get forward and get back. We needed to have the commitment to do that until the final whistle. I just tried to size up things on the field and to see if there was a way where I could get forward and get a chance – and so the ball went forward to Jozy [Altidore], and I just tried to move off of him.
It was a pretty good finish too.
It was a great ball from Landon [Donovan], and then Jozy did incredibly well to be strong and then to head it down right in my path. I just needed to make sure I put it in.
There seems to be a great togetherness in the team.
One of the big things about our team is the mentality and the spirit that we have. We enjoy being around one another, we enjoy spending time with each other, and I think you really see that come out on the field. When we get in tough spots, or things don't go our way, there's still a real feeling of togetherness and fight and just sticking by one another. You need that in the toughest of times.
Maurice Edu's goal was disallowed near the end. Can you talk about your feelings on being so close to a winner?
The emotions of a game like that run high. When you think you've won and then the goal is called back it's an emotional moment. Let's be honest – that's one of the things that makes football such a great game. Now there's nothing more we can do about it, and the focus on our end is 100 per cent towards the game on Wednesday.
Is confidence high going into the Algeria game?
We have confidence in ourselves as a team, and as a player you want to play in the biggest games, where the spotlight comes on the brightest. I think there's going to be a real feeling of excitement on Wednesday. This is our time and we're ready to go. We'll give everything we have.