U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley hasn’t had the strongest performance so far at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Bradley has been criticized on a number of occasions for his poor play in the USA’s three group stage games, in which the Americans managed to qualify for the knockout round despite losing to Germany 1-0 in the final round of group play.
If U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann feels the same way about Bradley, he isn’t showing it.
“I am very, very satisfied with Michael in this tournament so far,” Klinsmann told reporters on Friday. “We came through this group because of his influence on the field.”
Many point to Bradley as the reason the U.S. didn’t seal their advancement to the next round one game earlier against Portugal. In the final minute of that game, Bradley made a costly turnover at midfield that led to a game-tying header from Silvestre Varela that would end up making the team’s advancement much more difficult.
Yet Klinsmann feels that Bradley’s defensive effort was a big part in the U.S. even being in that situation in the first place.
“The defensive work that Michael puts in is absolutely outstanding,” Klinsmann said. “It is one of the reasons why we barely gave away any chances for Germany in that game, and Portugal the same thing.”
Whether you agree with Klinsmann or not, there is no doubt that Bradley has worked hard over the first three games. According to FIFA’s statistics, the 26-year-old has covered a total of 23.6 miles so far at the World Cup, nearly three more miles than any other player in the tournament.
The U.S. will be counting on Bradley to make the most of those miles when it takes on Belgium in the Round of 16 on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET.
Photo via USATSI/Mark J. Rebilas