According to Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, Michael Bradley limped off of the field before Team USA's 3-1 loss to Costa Rica. Bradley injured his ankle in gruesome fashion, as Wahl displayed in an NSFW photo.
Should Bradley miss time, his injury would be a huge blow to Team USA's chances of defeating Mexico on Sept. 10, 2013.
Bradley is a 26-year-old midfielder who plays for AS Roma of Serie A in Italy. Once known as the coach's son while Team USA played under Bob Bradley, he's now become one of the most respected American players in the world.
Unfortunately, Bradley is currently on crutches.
Wahl of Sports Illustrated seconded this report, going on to state that Bradley had an ice pack on his ankle.
Bradley has made 80 appearances for Team USA, becoming one of the most well-respected players in the history of the national team. He's made the move overseas, led the U.S. through multiple games and has become a leader on the two-way front.
Losing him would be the definition of crippling.
Team USA's Offense
Over the course of his career with Team USA, Bradley has registered 11 goals in 80 appearances. That isn't the most impressive number you'll ever see, but Bradley has been an invaluable member on both ends, and his goals have come against big-time opponents.
Most specifically, three of his 11 career goals have come against Mexico.
Bradley scored two goals against Mexico on Feb. 11, 2009, when Team USA won 2-0 during a 2010 World Cup qualifying match. Coincidentally, the game was held at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
That's the same venue that will host Mexico vs. Team USA on Sept. 10, 2013.
There's no guarantee that Bradley would score another goal against Mexico, but that's hardly reason to question his value. His tenacity in the open field has sparked many scoring plays and would be welcome against a Mexico squad that is desperate for a win.
As we've long seen in sports, desperation is the ultimate driving force behind a bounce-back performance. It certainly won't help Team USA's defense to have him out as it attempts to combat that effort.
Mexico's Offensive Woes
Mexico was long the class of North American football, competing at a high level with limited resistance from the United States. During the 2014 World Cup qualifying matches, however, Mexico has collapsed under pressure.
Mexico is currently in fourth place with eight points, going 1-5-1 with just four goals scored—the second-lowest amount of any team, per CONCACAF.com.
Going up against Team USA, a direct rival, Mexico will inevitably look to solve its offensive woes with a masterful performance. The Associated Press, via Yahoo! Sports, reports that Mexico has gone as far as firing head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre to fix those woes, and one can't help but expect El Tri to respond as a unit.
Losing Bradley is just about the worst-case scenario for an American team hoping to prevent Mexico's rise from transpiring.
Bradley has made his name as a versatile player who contributes both as an offensive spark plug and defensive force. He's disrupted even the best strikers from entering the defensive zone for a clear look and would be tasked with doing the same against Mexico.
Instead, Javier Hernandez would have a significantly easier road to the net than if Bradley were healthy. That's a dangerous truth to gamble with, as Chicharito is one of the most respected strikers in the world today.
Even if he can be a goal-poacher, eliminating his open-field efficiency would do wonders for Team USA's ability to take control defensively. With Bradley out of the lineup, however, Mexico would be able to reclaim its status as the favorite.
Plain and simple, losing Bradley would be a crippling blow.
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