The Estadio Azteca in Mexico City has never been a happy hunting ground for the United States Men’s National Team. Just six Americans had scored there going into last night’s World Cup qualifier between the head honchos of North American soccer. So maybe it was the relaxed expectations on this U.S. team—which struggled in its first two qualifying games before Jurgen Klinsmann was fired, but has since begun to get things back on track—which allowed them to grab hold of last night’s game from the start. By “them,” we mean Michael Bradley. The captain made an interception out of a suffocating high press in the sixth minute, took a touch forward and then looked up in time to see Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa off his line.
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This was a moment of sublime skill, one you don’t normally expect from a U.S. team usually defined by its rough-and-tumble athleticism. But both the vision and execution here are world class. Bradley saw the opportunity, drew the path the ball would have to take to beat Ochoa in his mind’s eye, and then had the suave touch to follow through on his vision—all in the space of less than two seconds. It was a fabulous display of instinctive ability. Bradley is not one of the world’s great players, but any of them would be glad to have this one in their highlight reel.
In the end, it wasn’t enough to win the game. Mexico equalized and the game finished 1-1—a good result for the Americans on this turf—but not before Bradley threatened the spectacular again.