Michael Bradley has been getting a lot of praise for his performance in the U.S.’s 2-2 draw against Mexico last night. Deservedly so, too. The Toronto FC man was excellent, scoring the Americans’ opener, brilliantly heading RSL defender Tony Beltran’s cross into the path of Chris Wondolowski for an assist on the U.S.’s second, distributing wonderfully and turning in a solid defensive shift at the top of Jurgen Klinsmann’s midfield diamond.
Bradley was freed up on Wednesday, and it paid off. Instead of spending 90 minutes providing cover in front of the backline, he was free to roam where he pleased, pulling attacking strings all over the pitch. He put in defensive work when necessary, but mainly served as a creator, with the entire U.S. attack running through him.
The man behind Bradley in the U.S.’s midfield diamond on Wednesday? That’d be RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman, whose positional discipline, rock-solid distribution and defensive ability allowed Bradley to get up the field with aplomb. The Beckerman-Bradley partnership flourished against El Tri; the two had an obvious chemistry, a solid understanding of each other and played well into each other’s strengths.
In short, it was everything that the Bradley’s partnership with Jermaine Jones – Klinsmann’s usual first-choice midfield tandem – usually isn’t. Bradley seemed to notice just that, hinting at it in his postgame comments on Wednesday night.
“I didn’t necessarily look at it so differently than normal other than now you’re playing with a guy in Kyle who does a good job of being disciplined and taking care of things in front of the defenders,” Bradley said. “It means that I’m able to have a little more freedom, have the ability to be a little more two-way and be more up-and-down. It’s certainly something I enjoy.”
Kyle clearly enjoyed himself too, completing 39 of 42 passes before coming off in the 72nd minute.
“I thought we got a lot joy from it. That first half was a lot of fun,” Beckerman said. “[Bradley] can just be effective in more dangerous areas. For all of us, really, there was a lot of space and attacking options once we got the ball.”
Now, the big question: Will we see the Bradley-Beckerman partnership this summer in Brazil? And could Klinsmann give Kyle a start (or two, or three), or will he stick with the familiar – if less dynamic – central midfield duo of Bradley and Jermaine Jones? We don't know, but we do know we're not the only ones who want to see KB5 out there come June.
Quick, someone make a mixtape of Kyle Beckerman's passing. Upload it to YouTube with a Euro trance track and send it to Jurgen. #USMNT— Eric Beard (@BeardEric) April 3, 2014
Real talk: Kyle Beckerman has been this good throughout the entire cycle. You guys just weren't paying attention.— Maxi Rodriguez (@FutbolIntellect) April 3, 2014