Michael Bradley (pictured) will captain the USA at the Copa America Centenario. (Photo: Mexsport)
SANTA CLARA, California -- The United States realizes that Colombia will be a formidable foe Friday, when they meet at Levi’s Stadium in the opening game of the Copa America Centenario.
"They have a good blend of guys who are very technically gifted and talented and also guys physically and athletically [who] will challenge us," said captain Michael Bradley. "It's just being ready in every way to compete and understand what each moment of the game is going to be about."
Colombia, which reached the 2014 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals, has not always been in top form during South American qualifying for Russia 2018. It sits in fifth place after six games with a 3W-1D-2L record.
In March, though, the Cafeteros won two straight qualifiers, scoring three goals in each. Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez, who notched a 2014 World Cup-high six goals, tallied once over those 180 successful minutes.
Bradley likes what he has seen from the Americans recently, especially over the course of three consecutive wins in Copa warm-up matches – 3-1 away v Puerto Rico, 1-0 home v Ecuador and 4-0 home v Bolivia. While veterans like Clint Dempsey, Alejandro Bedoya and Jermaine Jones maintain key roles in the side, some younger standouts are starting to emerge. Forwards Bobby Wood (23) and Gyasi Zardes (24), plus Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic (17), have each gotten on the scoresheet in the most recent outings.
"It's a good blend of youth, of experience," Bradley remarked. "There's good balance in the team. I think there's big determination within the team to make this a special few weeks."
The midfielder also warned that those friendly results won't have any bearing on what will transpire in the Copa.
"We're happy with the way things went in these last two games," concluded Bradley. "In terms of the spirit and the mentality of the group, it always helps. But we all understood that the second that whistle blew in Kansas City to finish the [Bolivia] game, those results meant nothing.
"Now it's about understanding that the real thing is starting. We've got to have the right mentality and the right focus."
A win against Colombia will go a long way in making sure those two things continue to happen.