Michael Bradley Injury Will Not Cost United States Place at 2014 World Cup

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 11:  Goalkeeper Tim Howard #1 of USA gets a hug from Michael Bradley #4 after defeating Panama 2-0 during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier at CenturyLink Field on June 11, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Don't worry, United States supporters, Michael Bradley's injury isn't going to end up derailing the US' hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

By now, most have seen the image of Bradley injuring his ankle before the United States took on Costa Rica, as seen here via Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated.

He missed the match, and the US lost, 3-1. It was one of the Americans' worst performances of the fourth round and underlined Bradley's importance to the United States. No player is more vital to Jurgen Klinsmann's side than the 26-year-old midfielder.

He'll be a big loss for the Mexico match on Tuesday night, as Ives Galarcep of Soccer by Ives points out.

Still, no matter how much more of the Hex he misses, the United States should be able to get enough points to finish with a place in the top three of the group. It's not time to hit that panic button just yet.

The United States are still second in the group, three points ahead of Honduras in third and five points ahead of Mexico in fourth. With their fantastic run before the Costa Rica match, they've done enough to get almost inches away from automatic qualification.

It would take a massive collapse for the US to miss out on that top-three place, even without Bradley.

A draw against Mexico should be the expectation, even after El Tri sacked Jose Manuel de la Torre. If anything, that news should embolden the squad as it gets the "new manager bump" and won't have to deal with the constant turmoil that came with the doubts over De la Torre's job security.

If the US can get that point against Mexico, that means it will need to beat either Jamaica at home or Panama on the road, which should be doable.

Both of those matches are a month away. That's plenty of time for Bradley to try to heal his ankle, which isn't as serious as first speculated, per US Soccer on Twitter.

In the event Bradley is still hurt by the time Jamaica make the trip to Kansas City on October 11, you'd still favor the United States to get the win. The Reggae Boyz are bottom on the group, on three points, and lost to the US at home already.

Whether Bradley is there or Klinsmann has to opt for a midfield with a combination of Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, Mix Diskerud, Graham Zusi, Jermaine Jones and Sacha Kljestan, that should be enough to get past Jamaica.

There's enough creativity and defense in that midfield for the US to get an early lead and hold it for the rest of the game.

Panama would be trickier, but they've still won only once in seven qualifying matches. They'll be a tough opponent at home, but if the US must get points, Klinsmann will get his players ready to head into Panama City and do whatever is necessary to qualify.

Once the United States have qualification, all will be right with the world.