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Michael Bradley and US Soccer: Good people choke, too

Wonderful people can choke.

Great business people can do great things to put their company into a position to succeed only to be the reason the company fails.

No one should attack Michael Bradley’s character as a man. He’s given all that he can give to build US soccer. Among people that love the game, Bradley’s talent and heart has helped to improve US soccer on the world stage. Michael Bradley is a wonderful person.

Michael Bradley choked.

The US soccer movement can’t have it both ways. Either American soccer is the cute little engine that could and we give Michael Bradley a pat on the head while handing him a participation trophy or raised expectations were not met.

If you want the soccer specific stadiums, more MLS coverage on SportsCenter and for soccer to replace hockey in the “Big 4” — or expand American psyche to include five major sports — the players must be subject to judgement by the same standards of American excellence.

Imagine LeBron James with the ball at mid-court of Game 3 of the NBA Finals. The Heat are up by 2 with the shot clock turned off. All LeBron has to do is hold the ball over his head and Miami wins. Then Tony Parker strips the ball from James and scores the tying layup to set up overtime. What would the world say?

Michael Bradley was atrocious in Game 1 of the 2014 World Cup. Consistently, his touches ended with a Ghanian possession. In Game 2 he played better, but three times zero is the same as 18 times zero. His improvement from atrocious to below average wasn’t good enough for someone from whom a lot is expected.

Missing the empty net goal was difficult enough to swallow. Sure, it happens. It’s about the same analogy as Steve Nash with a blocked shot. It happens, but it never should. It’s a play that a team leader must make.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t Bradley’s only disaster. His turnover at midfield at the end of the game was horrific. That ball has to be sent to the corner flag. It’s as if Sidney Crosby had the puck in his own end with four seconds left with a one goal lead but he doesn’t want to ice the puck. It is a decision you hope a junior varsity soccer player will make. By the time a player reaches varsity soccer, it’s inexcusable for a midfielder to hold onto the ball in a double-team at that point in the game.

The die-hard, knowledgeable soccer fan struggles to come to grips with the fact Michael Bradley choked. He’s a good guy. He’s a guy that has helped to bring the U.S. to a respected place internationally. He also must play exponentially better if the U.S. is to advance.

If it wasn’t for Michael Bradley, the USMNT may not be participating in World Cup. Due to Michael Bradley, the USMNT may not be advancing, either.