SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – A budding elder statesman of the US national team at just 25 years of age, Michael Bradley understands the travails involved in a quick-turnaround qualifying match like the one Jurgen Klinsmann's side faces in Honduras on Wednesday (4 pm ET, beIN Sport, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Bradley, along with a number of his European-based teammates, flew into Miami over the weekend, joining a US national team which only arrived in San Pedro Sula on Monday night. The team will perform a walk through at the stadium Tuesday afternoon before taking on Honduras the next day, but Bradley says timing won't be an issue for this experienced American team.
“These single fixture dates are always a challenge," Bradley, currently in his first season at Serie A side Roma, said. "It’s important for every guy to come in with the right mentality and really ready from the time that plane lands, to be mentally and physically ready to prepare themselves for the game.
“We have a good group of guys who have the experience of doing this over the last few years. When you get to this point in qualifying, where so much is on the line, you don’t need a lot of motivation. We see the World Cup on the horizon and we’re ready to go.”
To get to that World Cup, the US will, as always, need to pass some difficult road tests, starting on Wednesday.
But far from being intimidated by the environment they’re set to face at the Olympic Stadium – a day the Honduran government has declared a national holiday to allow fans to get out to the game – Bradley said these are the games he and his teammates love to play in.
“To represent the US in this competition is a dream, an honor,” he said. “To come to these countries ands see how much football means to these countries, to play in these stadiums, these games in this atmosphere, this is what you dream about doing. When we get on that plane, every guy, we look each other in the eye and say, 'This is it.' There’s a real sense of excitement.”
Like many of his veteran teammates, Bradley recognizes that playing on the road in a country like Honduras can entail a number of unexpected surprises, any of which can derail the hopes of an unprepared team.
Along with a cadre of veterans, Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster is interspersed with seven players who have never earned a cap in World Cup qualifying.
“The main thing is, you’ll never know exactly what to expect,” Bradley said. “From the time you get here to the time you leave, there will be 50 things that go on that you don’t expect. It can be the hotel, it can be the field, it can be the referee. There are so many things that can go against you.
“That’s where the team mentality comes in: You have to stick together and say, ‘We’re going to do whatever we have to do to get this result.’ And at the end of the day, the guys who haven’t been here will figure it out very quick.”