When it comes to World Cup Qualifying, every National Team needs to develop chemistry on the field that translates to a successful run. In the case of the U.S. Men’s National Team, one of the most crucial and growing partnerships features veteran midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones.
On a team filled with youthful talent, Bradley and Jones are two of the most experienced players on the U.S. roster for the upcoming qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico. Now patrolling the center of the park for Roma, Bradley at 73 appearances is the third most-capped player on the current roster behind DaMarcus Beasley (97) and Clint Dempsey (92) and has played in the World Cup, the Olympics and in the top leagues in the world. Bradley’s midfield mate Jones has been in the mix since late in the 2010 campaign and has accrued 27 caps while a regular contributor for Schalke in the Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League.
Overall the two midfielders have played in 20 international games together, including four World Cup Qualifiers. Their experience and familiarity with each other is seen by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann as an integral part of the USA’s future success.
“It’s very crucial, the partnership between Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones. It’s really important that they develop a real fine-tuned understanding that when one goes forward and is attacking, the other has to secure him and stay back.” Klinsmann said. “Here and there they both end up in the opponent’s penalty area and you leave kind of a hole behind. Those are things we would love to work on in the near future, when we play both next to each other and maybe we play without a No. 6 that secures them.
“It only works if one stays and the other goes, and this is very important. Hopefully now we have the time and more training sessions before a game to work on that, and I think in time if we develop that fine-tuned understanding between these two guys then we have a big plus.”
The growth between the two has not just taken place with the U.S. MNT. Both players saw each other frequently while playing against each other in the German Bundesliga. Bradley made 76 appearances for Borussia Mönchengladbach from 2008-11 before taking his talents to Serie A. Jones has been a fixture in the lineup for Schalke 04, making 110 appearances for the club since 2007. The familiarity between the two has led to on-pitch success for both players since Jones joined Bradley as a regular in the lineup during the 2011 Gold Cup.
“The relationship is very good. We started playing together in the Gold Cup and it took time to find each other’s way,” Jones said. “Now we have a good understanding of how we both like to move, how we like to receive passes and how best to play together.”
Helping the tandem play even better together is that during Bradley’s time in Germany he became fluent in the native language of the German-born Jones. Being able to communicate in each other’s native tongues has done nothing but increase the chemistry between the bilingual duo.
“There is a real respect and appreciation for what we each bring to the team,” Bradley said. “As we move forward into the important games this year, the idea that Jermaine and I are continuing to improve the understanding between us is important.
With their experience, skill and savvy, they present a formidable challenge for any opponent, and one that can become a game-changer.
“We both step on the field with the idea and the commitment of winning the midfield using our physical qualities and footballing qualities to really make a mark on the game.”