we’re all grown up

Featured

This is a short excerpt from my first featured post for Football Golazo, the new football site brought to you by UK-based journalist Kristian Sturt (@FootieWriter). To read it in it’s entirety, please click here or click the link at the end of the post.

Jurgen Klinsmann

For years, Americans have predicted American football’s long awaited arrival in the mainstream. But the metrics by which that achievement has been measured are many.

Some believe it can evaluated on international successes such as regular knockout round qualification and a quarterfinal appearance in recent World Cups. Others might cite the tremendous growth in popularity of the US national teams and the professional game overseas. And still others attribute the maturation and expansion of our domestic league as the key indicator. And to be fair, all of those are fair measuring sticks.

But in my humble opinion, it wasn’t until last week’s spat involving US manager Jurgen Klinsmann and Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber that US football well and truly arrived.

That’s right: a legitimate club versus country debate is what we needed to officially declare US football as fully grown up. That may seem a little absurd given how these  generally derided rows are regular occurrences in more established footballing countries. Those headline generators like the the recent quibbling between Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers and England’s Roy Hodgson over the handling of a sleepy Raheem Sterling. Or more seriously, when UEFA threatened to ban an internationally-retired Frank Ribéry if he didn’t turn out for France if Didier Deschamps called him in a few months back.

We’ve honestly never had an actual one of those before in American soccer. Sure, there have been some minor issues in the past — mainly over missing star players when MLS refused to take international breaks. But none of those inspired a national debate in the same way that the verbal quarrel between our national team coach and head of our domestic league has.

Continue reading “We’re All Grown Up” on Football Golazo. →

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ten words or less #98

bayern are good… like “scary good”. if you don’t believe me, just ask roma.

The waiting game when publishing articles for other sites can be excruciating. I’ve got an article that I finished for one a few days ago, and I don’t know when it will go up. It might be tempting to reach out to the editor of that site and ask when it might go up. But as most writers will attest, you never want to get on the bad side of an editor — at least if you ever want to write for him again. So I wait. “Patiently”.

Luckily, I’ve got this nice links round up for you to keep you patiently waiting for new original content, too.

Del Bosque finally stepping down from Spain post in 2016. – nbcsports.com

How was this NOT a penalty? – youtube.com

I now want Bolton to be promoted so bad. – theoriginalwinger.com

One of the best of the flood of #ThanksLD videos. – mlssoccer.com

Sunderland doing right by their incredibly embarrassed traveling supporters. – bbc.com

The boy who might have jump started American soccer earlier. – wsj.com

Shakhtar’s stadium damaged by a bomb blast in Donetsk. – donbass-arena.com

I wish more MLS teams would do collabos like this. – amongmen.com

Michel Platini wants “white cards” for dirty mouths. – theguardian.com

If I could find a wife, you’d think DaMarcus Beasley could. – soccergods.com

WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 10

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 10

I’ll tell you what: there was no short supply of footie talk about in the latest rendition of the WSOTP Podcast. The return of the Premier League had everyone elated, and the guys provided a rundown of all of the highs and lows from the weekend action. Stateside, the rapidly solidifying MLS playoff picture provided ample talking points, as did the recent club versus country debate being waged between Don Garber and Jurgen Klinsmann. Chris is back with his Bundesliga update. The normal weekly segments — Fantasy UpdateWinners & Wankers and Fulham Watch — are all in there, too. And in just in case you missed it when it was tweeted out, Jeremy was kind enough to create a Spotify Playlist with every song we’ve ever used to close out the podcast — in order of appearance even.

Also, remember that we would love for you to send us topics and questions to talk about in next week’s podcast. Get into the mix by shooting us an email to contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com, tweeting us or writing it on our Facebook wall using the links at the bottom of the page.

 

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 9

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 9

Just because we’re in the middle of yet another international break that’s forced another short sabbatical of the European club game, there was still ample subject matter for Jeremy and D.J. to discuss to warrant another edition of the WSOTP Podcast. So what’s on deck for this week’s episode? The guys spend considerable time chatting about Landon Donovan’s penultimate match for the US national team and the legacy he’ll leave behind. Furthermore, it’s not like MLS went on hiatus. So the guys made room to cover the steadily intensifying MLS Playoff races, including the Crew’s dramatic comeback win against Philadelphia. Speaking of the Crew, some time to was also devoted to Columbus’ #NewCrew logo reveal and D.J.’s experience covering the unveiling event last week — which you can read more about here. Plus, we announced the winning reader/listener-selected design for the first ever WSOTP scarf!

As always, remember to send us your topics and questions for next week’s podcast. If you have something for us, send us an email at contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com, tweet it to us, or even write it on our Facebook wall using the links at the bottom of the page.

 

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 6

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 6Premier League weekend recap: check. Champions League rundown: check. #MLSNEXT and MLS playoff hunt thoughts: double check. This week’s WSOTP Podcast has football discussion in ample supply. Listen in as D.J. and Jeremy pontificate on Özil’s resurrection, Manchester United’s capitulation, and Leicester City’s adulation. The guys also share their thoughts on the new MLS Logo — which D.J. wrote extensively about — and how things are shaping up in the MLS Cup Playoffs race. There was still time to discuss the first round of Champions League group action at the end, too. And believe it or not, all that and more can be found in a package significantly shorter than last week’s epic pod.

If you happen to have anything you would want us to cover on our next podcast, hit us up at contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or tweet us using the links at the bottom of the page.

 

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 5

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 5

After taking off last week for the most pointless international break ever and with another full weekend of European club football now under our belts, there was a lot to talk about on Episode 5 of the podcast. So prepare yourself — this will be a long one.

Though we weren’t fans of the break, we did cover the USMNT’s first match of the new World Cup cycle as well as discussed some of the more interesting news that filtered out during the rest of the international break. The Premier League’s return this past weekend also required plenty of discussion, with hardly a dud among the nine matches that took place before we recorded. We also made room for our newest segment, a once-a-fortnight Bundesliga-centric update from our German football correspondent Chris Wieland (@TheSpareWheel). And let’s not forget our regular Winners and Wankers and Jeremy’s Fulham Watch segments, as those were in there too.

As always, if you have any questions or topics you want us to cover on future podcasts, drop us a line at contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or tweet us using the links at the bottom of the page.

 

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

every cat only has nine lives

Fulham v Stoke City - Premier LeagueMaking the jump to Europe and finding success is no easy feat to pull off. Countless Americans have tried, and many of them faltered.

A limited number of players have left our shores and departed for the greener pastures — and paychecks — of the European game and been able to make a good name for themselves. Think Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundulo and Tim Howard, all of whom had great on field success.

For some, however, they see their bright starts fizzle away to obscurity. The first name that comes to mind is a guy like Maurice Edu, who had some monstrous performances for Rangers before devolving into a reserve at Stoke. Others like Adam Lichaj, Clarence Goodson and Jonathan Spector make for similar examples of promising prospects that developed into average careers at best.

Still others oscillate between successes and failures, such as Jozy Altidore is finding out after failing to impress in his time at Villareal, then finding his feet at AZ, and now struggling again at Sunderland.

But for many, it never really clicked in the first place. The best instance of this is Eddie Johnson’s disastrous spell at Fulham.

The margin for whether an American player — and all players moving abroad, for that matter — will end up a flop or a hit is razor thin. The variables that determine that are innumerable. It can range from the situation of the club he is acquired by to the manager(s) he plays under, the culture of the country or even the player’s mental strength. It’s a toss up, really. And a lot of things have to go perfectly for it all to pop off.

So when it was announced this week that Brek Shea would be leaving Stoke City on yet another loan after unsuccessfully securing any meaningful playing time for the Potters, I feared that he might be steadily on his way to joining the long list of American failures in Europe.

And if I’m being completely honest, I was actually concerned Shea might turn out this way back when he first moved to Europe in January of 2013.

However, before we get into why that was a concern, let’s chart his career trajectory a bit. Back in 2011, Shea had just logged an impressive 11 goal, 5 assist campaign for FC Dallas in his fourth season in MLS. He had broken into Klinsmann’s US side and had shown flashes of creativity and excitement in attack. Many were touting him as the brightest light of the new crop of players being ushered into the program. And it was around that time when the European clubs began to circle like vultures. Which made sense given that Shea possesses the exceedingly rare “Three S’s” of size, speed and strength. Ultimately he settled on a trial/training stint with Arsenal, which inspired me to write this piece on how big of a chance it could have proven for him. Things seemed very, very bright for the Texas native.

Unfortunately, no permanent move materialized and he followed that all up with a pretty lackluster — albeit injury-riddled — 2012 back in Dallas. But though his performances slagged, his off field celebrity remained large and social media following continued to ballooned. Some questioned whether all of that contributed to him being a bit distracted and was more concerned with maintaining his image. Yet despite all of that, Stoke City still came calling in January 2013.

And that’s where I started to question whether Brek might be making the wrong move at the wrong time.

Having surgery to remove a bone in his foot and coming off an under performing season in MLS, it might have made more sense to stick it out in Dallas for a bit longer. Doing so might have helped him to regain his fitness and rebuild his confidence. Besides, joining European sides midway through the season is always a difficult task.

At the time, Stoke City were in a bit of a stutter themselves and only picked up a point during the entire month of January under Tony Pulis. Too, Pulis’ Stoke weren’t exactly renown for their attacking acumen. And for both reasons, the manager found himself under increasing pressure from both the fans and boardroom that eventually lead to his departure.

was moving to stoke the wisest of moves for brek?

was moving to stoke the wisest of moves for brek?

As an attacking player whose skills and tactical awareness still needed further honing, Shea’s moving to Stoke to play under Pulis just didn’t make much sense. Furthermore, choosing to go play under a manager who didn’t look like he would be in the job much longer seemed naive — though you could argue he might have thought the club’s poor run of form would give him a chance to break into the side.

The attack-minded Mark Hughes’ arrival at the Britannia Stadium in March might have seemed like a boost to Shea’s chances of success. But given that Hughes has only chosen him twice in the 18 months since then, it’s probably fair to say the Welshman doesn’t exactly fancy what he has to offer.

That said, Hughes hasn’t completely shut him out in the cold. The lanky winger was farmed out at the beginning of the year to Barnsley with the aim of getting him some matches. Although you could also see the move as means of placing Shea in the shop window too. And though he impressed on his debut for Tykes and made eight appearances for them, his loan was cut short and he was sent back to Stoke after a bust up with supporters. Predictably, Hughes didn’t give him a runout once he returned either.

Since, things have remained rather stagnant for Mr. Shea. Without much on-pitch time to sharpen his game since the move to England — and after failing to impress in his appearances in the pre-tournament tune ups — Klinsmann wisely skipped over him for the US’ World Cup squad. A lackluster appearance in the last friendly against the Czech Republic only served to reinforce that decision.

And now he’s gone out on loan again, this time to Championship side Birmingham City. Hughes even went so far as to say he didn’t see the American in his plans for the Potters, though perhaps impressing while on loan might be a way to change the manager’s mind.

But you get the feeling that if he disappoints at St. Andrew’s, Shea’s days in England might just be numbered.

Of course, this might be a bit premature. He’s never quite regained full fitness since moving abroad, and a consistent run of games has helped many a player to find form before. Maybe he’ll find his feet in Birmingham, and use it as a launch pad to greater success across the pond.

You hate to say that Brek Shea is a cat that’s used up eight of his nine lives in just a year and a half playing overseas. But his showings of late haven’t exactly been the kind that would convince you otherwise, and his manager at Stoke isn’t exactly the type to give players bonus chances.

And if that’s the case, he’ll be the latest in a long line of American players that just couldn’t cut the mustard abroad.

i need to get this off my chest

Landon DonovanLet me start this off by saying that, without a doubt, few people have had a more profound impact on the American soccer landscape than Landon Timothy Donovan.

Well before Freddy Adu ever graced the cover of Sports Illustrated or had his face splashed all over ESPN, Landon was this country’s first soccer prodigy. No other American player has garnered more success. Too, few other footballers from the United States have attained his level of fame and fortune.

And because of all of that, he’s also been the sport’s biggest target for criticism — particularly from this corner of the internet.

But with Donovan announcing yesterday that he’ll be hanging up his boots for good at the end of the 2014 Major League Soccer season, I felt it necessary to explain myself and my thoughts and criticisms a bit further.

Continue reading

you wanna talk about progress?

Jurgen-KlinsmannThree years ago this week, the hiring of Jürgen Klinsmann as the new US men’s national team head coach was to be a watershed moment in US soccer history. The German legend was charged with taking a plucky, overachieving American side and turning us into a dominant force in world football.

In his introductory press conference, Klinsmann took the bull by the horns. He pledged not only to help take US soccer to new heights, but also promised to help define and proliferate a new style of American soccer.

“[We want to play] a more proactive style of play where you would like to impose a little bit the game on your opponent instead of sitting back and waiting for what your opponent is doing and react to it… We want to start to keep possession, we want to start to dictate the pace of the game, we want to challenge our players to improve technically in order to keep the ball”

But despite helping the US to escape a Group of Death containing the Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portagal, long-time nemesis Ghana and tournament champions Germany, not to mention pushing a Belgian side many fancied as Brazil 2014’s dark horse to the brink… those words have proven to be the noose by which many have tried to hang Klinsmann.

————————————–

With Jürgen’s three year anniversary of taking charge of the national team passing this week, the US Soccer Facebook page asked fans to weigh in on the German’s progress thus far.

As of the time of publication, nearly 2600 responses had been fielded. A decent number of them were positive and supportive. But an overwhelming majority of them weren’t.

It was an echoing of the sentiments expressed by many in the wake of the elimination by Belgium in the Round of 16. Too, many of the complaints submitted actually were hollered after the original roster announcement prior to the World Cup when Landon Donovan was cast out in the cold.

“We aren’t any better or worse than when he got here.”

“What happened to the offensive game he promised?”

“He is the reason we didn’t go farther in the [World Cup].”

“There has been no progress.”

A veteran internet user, I should have known better than to go to the comments. While there will always be grains of truth among the mire, it was mostly filled with naive and baseless drivel. Those complaints would be easier to ignore if it weren’t for the fact that they were inescapable. Anti-Klinsmann tirades were voiced on my favorite podcasts, Reddit posts were littered with the same thing, and of course they were all over Twitter, too.

And while I understand everyone’s frustrations at not advancing further, believing that Klinsmann has done a poor job during his tenure in charge is just way too far off base to let go unchallenged.

Where to start? How about with the noose of a quote that everyone keeps trying to hang Klinsmann with.

Yes, he committed to attempting to bring in and define a new American style. It was to be an offensive style of play based on possession. But while everyone is willing to hem and haw over how his side at the World Cup decidedly did not play in that fashion — thus “breaking his promise” — they also outright ignore entire portions of that very same press conference. For example:

“If you play Brazil or Argentina, you might [have to] play differently than maybe a country in CONCACAF.”

What Jürgen so clearly stated here was that, depending on the opponent, it might not be possible to play the way he desires to. If you try to play possession-oriented football against Spain, they’ll likely boss you off the pitch. If you try to take it to the Italians and fail to finish, they’ll probably exploit the one mistake you make on the counter. Even the best sides adjust their standard game plans against top opponents; the Netherlands did so three times in this tournament alone.

Furthermore, adopting a new identity isn’t something that will happen overnight. In fact, doing so in the three years Klinsmann has been at the reins is pretty much implausible as well. And low and behold, he even addressed that point in that press conference as well:

“Barcelona was not born in the last couple of years. It was born, the style of play now, in the early 90’s through Johan Cruyff. It took 20 years for that moment today that we see and all admire. Expectations are always based on what was built over the last 10-15 years.”

Translating that, it would be foolish to think that Jürgen could simply declare “WE’RE PLAYING OFFENSIVE FOOTBALL STARTING NOW!” and then do so with this current crop of players. They were all brought up in the old systems that played to various different ethos and mentalities. This World Cup was evidence of that fact.

Now, I would argue that Klinsmann was attempting to make small tweaks in the direction he wants to take the national team in the lead up to this World Cup. We saw the US men playing in more of a 4-3-3 set up in the tune-up matches, a formation geared towards offensive, possession-oriented play. But as I explained in my defense of Michael Bradley immediately after they were knocked out, that entire Plan A went out the window when Altidore went down because there was no like-for-like in the US pool of players who could slot in to those shoes. Plan B had to be different because of the tools Klinsmann then had at his disposal.

So really, the man’s commitment to changing the US style of play is one that is a more of a long-term goal. Klinsmann spoke at length in that press conference of the need to make vast changes in the youth game to achieve that goal — both at academies across the country and in the youth national team system. At the earliest, 2018 in Russia is where we should see the fruits of those labors start to come to fruition.

Klinsmann and Julian Green

julian green’s presence in brazil helped to lay the groundwork for what could come in the future.

Perhaps ironically, before the first ball was even kicked in Brazil this summer, people were already complaining that Klinsmann was focusing on 2018 too much.

Based on the youthful selections he made, the masses were enraged how the manager appeared to be writing off 2014. Which was a bit harsh. Given the hand we were dealt in the first round, most fans had written them off too. Few supporters or pundits actually believed we had the talent to make it out of a group that featured heavyweights like Germany, Ghana and Portugal.

And yet we did.

However, when Klinsmann “abandoned” the new philosophy of attacking and possession to make a run at actually getting out of the group — a tactic that achieved that feat and proved the doubters wrong, no less — everyone hung him out to dry. Once out and no longer just satisfied with the prospects of “just” advancing out of the Group of Death, many went and moved the goal posts on him.

Did they prefer he stick to his guns and get battered, or did they want him to play to this squad’s strengths and a chance to advance? Style over success? Aesthetics over glory? It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario for the German.

Ultimately, Klinsmann chose the later of those variables. And luckily, it worked out.

We advanced out of a group most countries wouldn’t have, we bled in youngsters who will likely feature in four and eight years time in a system likely to be more offensively-oriented, gained a larger following, and gave the sport a boost it wouldn’t have obtained otherwise.

If you ask me, that’s absolutely progress.

And that’s ignoring that Klinsmann and his staff have also instituted a massive change in our youth set up. Working with — and identifying — the 15, 16 and 17-year-old kids to imprint with the new style of thinking that is necessary to achieve a stylistic change require a total rethink of our approach. They’re the kind of changes necessary for changing the team’s style over a period of time that is far more viable. He’s pushed through a new national training center in Kansas City that heavily focuses on coaching this new style. The new training center also helps to lay the groundwork for the technical skills necessary in that system with a slew of futsal courts. He’s also helped to establish a broader and more comprehensive youth academy system that will implement them as well.

That’s progress, too.

And yet still, a sizable chunk of American fans think Klinsmann has done nothing for our national team, running him through the ringer for a partial quote. They choose to ignore the level of difficulty of the things he’s achieved. And they only care to look at a portion of the bigger picture.

So if you’re one of those throwing the man under the bus for a perceived lack of progress, make sure you open your eyes a little wider and remember that progress isn’t always a matter of wins. And just in case you’ve forgotten, there have been plenty of those, too.

get off his back

US midfielder Michael Bradley

Like most US soccer fans, I can still feel the sting of yesterday’s 2-1 knockout round loss to Belgium.

Despite clearly being the inferior side in a technical sense, the match was there for the taking. Tim Howard’s incredible performance in goal and a clever tactical plan laid out by coach Jurgen Klinsmann made that possible. Though when I close my eyes, I can still see Chris Wondolowski skying the ball over Thibaut Courtois’s gaping goal from the edge of the goal box in the dying seconds of regular time. And while it was a valiant performance from our boys, that result was inevitable if we were going to concede so many chances to an extremely talented Belgian side.

And in the disappointment, we’ve been subjected to a glut of articles raining criticism down on the players, the manager and the US soccer federation from both professionals and armchair pundits alike. Some complaints have merit. But quite a few are downright absurd.

One of the most common — and accurate — critiques levied against the US team deals with what this side was really capable of in the first place: were we even deserving of the quarterfinal spot that was denied to us?

From a technical standpoint: hardly.

It’s clear that the US national team still has a long way to go when it comes to producing the talent to compete at the next level. Our opponents yesterday featured a side rich with world-class talent. We might have two players that can be classified in that way. When Belgian manager Marc Wilmots decided Belgium needed to make a change up front, he was able to bring on the $37-million-rated, 21-year-old Romelu Lukaku — a player coveted by many of the top sides in Europe. However, when Klinsmann decided he needed to make a similar change, he had to make do with $2-million-rated, 31-year-old Chris Wondolowski — a man coveted at best by a few MLS clubs.

But there’s another popular theory about the US’s performances during the World Cup that doesn’t make any sense yet seems to be pouring out of every corner of the internet. That theory: Michael Bradley had a bad World Cup.

And I’m here to pour cold water all over that claim.

Before I get started, I’ll first concede that Bradley was not at his best offensively. For a guy that we’ve seen dominate in the Bundesliga, Serie A and at the international level, he didn’t exactly dictate produce in the way we all hoped he might. And against Ghana and Portugal in the first two Group G matches, he certainly made some critical mistakes.

But even in those first matches, it wasn’t as if he had bad games. They just weren’t what we’ve come to expect of him.

That said, there are quite a few important factors to keep in mind when evaluating his performances that many lambasting Michael are either ignoring or aren’t considering.

First and foremost, he’s being played out of position. While playing in the hole behind the single striker is something he’s capable of, Bradley is much better playing a deeper role. When he was at his best in Italy and Germany, he was deployed as a deep lying playmaker. Instead, he was stationed in an offensive midfield position that — while potentially beneficial to the US — didn’t exactly play to his strengths.

On that same point, he was posted up behind a player for a majority of the tournament that was himself being played out of position. Clint Dempsey, like Bradley, is capable of playing up top by himself, but is actually much better in the role that Michael was forced to play. And as such, he wasn’t as used to playing it the way that someone like Jozy Altidore would be more used to working. As such, it left Bradley to try and hold up play a bit more than someone would be asked to do when playing in the apex of the three-man midfield. Bob’s kid was left with few outlets to play to, with Bedoya and Zusi often pinched in and expected to track back on the opposing wingers.

Secondly, for an offensive midfielder, Bradley was expected to and needed to put in a lot of defensive effort. While he might have been sloppier in his distribution than we’re used to, he was expending a lot more of his energy covering ground defensively than should be expected of an offensive center mid. In fact, no player in the tournament has run as far as he has. And that will absolutely take its toll on his ability to make decisions and play precise passes..

As for those who needs stats to lean on, why not compare other players who have played similar roles. I’ve picked four players below who that have not only made it as far as the US did this World Cup, but have actually helped their teams reach the next round too. Influential players, much like Bradley. What you’ll find might actually surprise you.

Statistic Michael Bradley Oscar (BRA) Juan Cuadrado (COL) Eden Hazard (BEL)
Minutes 390 367 306 293
Passes (Accuracy) 252 (86.1%) 137 (73.3%) 97 (87.4%) 142 (83.8%)
% Pass Forward 34.9% 31.4% 18.0% 19.7%
% Pass Back/Side 65.1% 68.6% 82.0% 80.3%
Pass % Opp Half  76.6% 70.6% 87.5% 83.9%
Pass % Def Half 96.6% 82.9% 87.0% 83.3%
Chances Created 4 6 7 12
Tackles Won (%) 6 (75%) 16 (76.2%) 4 (66.7%) 3 (100%)
Interceptions 3 5 5 0
Distance Covered 54.7 km 40.4 km 33.8 km 33.9 km

The two stats that really stand out here are distance covered and passes/pass accuracy. Despite being burdened with the need to run more, he still managed to complete more passes than all of his counterparts. Not only that, but Bradley completed his passes at a better rate and more passes forward than the rest of them as well.

When you consider that Bradley was one of two players that opposing sides absolutely prepared for ahead of facing us — alongside Dempsey — those stats become even more impressive. The Toronto FC midfielder nearly always had two men pressuring him when he received the ball, meaning he had to be precise if he didn’t want to cough it up.

Now, I know he did cough it up at times when we hoped he might not. But I’m not going to skewer a guy for a few mistakes. While he wasn’t the second coming of Andrea Pirlo, Michael was far from being the next Jermaine Jenas.

But we do need to all consider what kind of expectations we placed on him. If you expected to see Bradley lift the trophy this summer, you’re probably on the wrong bandwagon.

The he helped us get out of the Group of Death should be enough for everyone, but many still aren’t satisfied. And they never will be.

But I am, Michael. You’ve done more than enough for me.