USA’s Bradley targets personal, team growth

The USA's Michael Bradley (pictured) in FIFA World Cup action against Ghana at the Estadio das Dunas on June 16, 2014, in Natal, Brazil. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)

SAO PAULO, Brazil – Michael Bradley admitted that he turned in a sub-par performance in the United States' World Cup opener on June 16.

The key thing to him, though, was that the Americans were able to come away with three Group G points from a 2-1 win over Ghana.

“I’m certainly honest enough and hard enough with myself to know that it wasn’t my sharpest night, but unfortunately, they’re not all going to be," he said.  "On those days it’s still about finding every possible way to help your team.

"We realized at a certain point that it wasn’t going it be a night for making a million passes or necessarily playing the most beautiful soccer, but it was about run and attack, closing down and making the game hard on Ghana."

Now, the rest of the competition is all about getting better and peaking at the right time.

"When you talk about the best teams, there’s an ability to win games in all different ways," Bradley continued.  "So, the first game was a really big step in that regard for us.

"We want to feel like, now as the tournament is going on that we are improving and growing because the teams that are around in the end are always the teams that are able to do that.  You obviously can’t pick and choose but still, you never want to play your best game first. You want to feel like as the tournament is moving on, the team and every guy is continuing to grow and get better and get stronger. It’s important that we start off with three points, because ... that was the most important thing from that first game.”

The second game will be on Sunday against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, which lost 4-0 to Germany in its opener, in the heat and humidity of Manaus.

Like most, if not all of his teammates, Bradley is expecting the Portuguese striker to play, despite all the publicity about his ailing knee injury.

“A game of this magnitude, of this importance for both teams, you’d always expect that the best players are going to find any way to be on the field," Bradley noted.  "When you play against good teams, when you play against good players it’s important to prepare in the best possible way.  I think we’ve done that.

"We understand what a special player he is.  We understand how good of a team they have, but it’s not something that fazes us.  We’re excited by the challenge; we’re excited by the moment. We feel like we’ve put ourselves in a good position.”

Bradley said that he wanted "to follow up a good start to the tournament with another result.  That’s the only thing we’re worried about at the moment.” 

A victory at the Arena Amazonia guarantee the U.S. a place in the Round of 16.