The news coming from the United States national team camp is finally good, but it could have been even better.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has named Clint Dempsey captain for Friday night's crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica in Denver. Dempsey, who has more than 90 international caps, is a solid choice. He is popular with players, coaches and fans and is one of the team's best and most important players.
Michael Bradley, however, would have been an even better choice.
I'll get to the reasons why in a moment. First, let's cover Dempsey's qualifications.
Dempsey, who signed with Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League last summer, enters the weekend with 92 caps. He has been named U.S. Soccer Player of the Year three times and has scored 11 goals in 27 career qualifying matches (he has scored 31 international goals overall, good for third all time).
Dempsey, who has served as captain for the U.S. once before, scored 23 goals in all competitions last season for Fulham.
“Clint is one of our most experienced players and ready to assume a more vocal leadership role,” said Klinsmann (via USSoccer.com). “He has been huge for us in World Cup Qualifying so far and is already one of our key leaders. We know he will do a great job for these two important games.”
Klinsmann is right about all of that. Dempsey has experience and leadership qualities (some of which might or might not be hilarious). He has also been injured recently and has not played a full 90 minutes for Spurs since Feb. 9 against Newcastle United in the Premier League (via WhoScored.com).
Bradley, admittedly, has also seen limited playing time recently. He played 22 minutes of Roma's 2-0 home win over Parma Sunday, and his last 90-minute outing came Feb. 24 at Atalanta (via WhoScored.com).
With that said, Bradley is the most important member of the U.S. midfield and the driving force behind the current U.S. team. He covers the length of the pitch and powers his teammates forward. He is intense and, with 73 international caps at age 25, he's also experienced. As the son of a coach, he's knowledgeable about tactics, strategy and the subtle nuances of leadership.
What's more, he sounds like a captain. Amid the controversy of the Sporting News' bombshell story this week about unrest within the U.S. camp, Bradley took a leadership role with his comments to the press.
"In those ways it is really disappointing that in a week as important as this, with so much on the line, that you would have something like that happen," he said (Reuters via The Independent), adding that the anonymous comments were "shameful" and "embarrassing."
He added: "The challenge of every guy in our team right now is to step on the field on Friday night and make sure to every American watching that there is no sign of anything that has gone wrong this week."
Bradley couldn't be more right. After losing to Honduras last month in their Hexagonal opener, the Americans were already under pressure. The Sporting News story served as a distraction and added more pressure.
Bradley's words show that he fully understands the task facing the U.S. He also sounds mature and as calm as a player could be under the circumstances.
Those are the traits any team could use in a captain. In the future, Klinsmann and the U.S. would do well to take advantage.
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