CARSON, Calif. – All week – for the two-and-a-half week duration of the American training camp, actually – Bob Bradley talked about speed.
The speed of the game at the international level. The speed with which the United States national team's opponents, Chile, would fly around the field. Speed. Speed. Speed.
"It was a fast game," said Bradley, unsurprisingly, after the Americans drew 1-1 with the South Americans on Saturday night. "Chile's way of playing is such that they put pressure on you. There probably are some periods where our ability to stay tuned in and move quick and be in good spots breaks down. And there's some moments when we lose some balls that are dangerous. But there's a strong response when we were down. I thought that was quite good."
Bradley was heartened by his team's renewed vigor after Esteban Paredes tallied in the 53rd minute. The US, fueled by the insertion of Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury into the lineup, equalized and held on for the draw.
Overall, the American coach sounded pleased with the effort, but learned few new things about the players he's seen every day for the past 17 days.
[inline_node:320777]"You get to know these guys," he said. "And for the most part [Saturday night], we saw a lot of what we know."
Bradley did note that midfielder Brek Shea had a much stronger performance than his debut showing in October against Colombia. Of course, the speed of the game (there it is again) eventually caught up with the FC Dallas winger.
"Against Colombia, Brek just said at halftime, 'That's faster than anything I've ever been in,'" Bradley recounted. "That day, it's almost like it was going so fast from the start, he couldn't really find a way in the game to make plays and be in the right spot.
"Tonight for 20 minutes, 25 minutes, you could see his growth. That now, all of a sudden, he's pushing himself in ways. The demand of these games is that much higher. Now, like a lot of these guys, he's not used to playing in games that have that tempo and pace all the time. So at a certain point, the tank is empty, but it was still a good sign to see the progress going forward. Hopefully these are the types of games that will help him."
Shea and his teammates – seven of whom earned their first caps – gained valuable experience on the field against Chile. They can take what they learned during the January sessions and apply it to their club situations. At least that's the hope of the US coaching staff.
"We hope and constantly remind these guys that things they take away from camps and these games need to go back with them and need to continue to improve," Bradley said. "We keep looking for opportunities where we think it makes sense to bring guys in and move them along."
A Feb. 9 game against Egypt looms on the horizon, and some of the 17 players who took the field against Chile may find themselves on the plane to Cairo.
They'll know what to expect: faster, ever faster.
Noah Davis covers the United States national team for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @noahedavis.
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