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The USMNT needs to stop moving Michael Bradley around

Michael Bradley can be the USMNT's best player, but not if he never settles into a role.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Bradley has been used to make an impact in the United States side from a variety of roles on the field, but he rarely plays to the best of his ability. He's one of the most talented players in the squad, if not the most talented, and his incredible work ethic and drive to win is a big asset for the USMNT as well. If he can just be given one role to play in regularly whenever he's with the national team, he can be a leading star for years to come.

The trouble is, Jurgen Klinsmann refuses to give Bradley that one role to stick to.

Bradley's versatility has been a major hindrance to him for much of his career. His ability to play such a wide variety of midfield roles means that his manager can swap him around as a plug-and-play piece to fill whatever holes his squad has in the middle of the pitch, which has both benefits and drawbacks. Being able to play more frequently is always good for a young player's growth, and it keeps average players employed in their later years, but all of that moving around has kept him from becoming a star in any one role.

That's the limbo that Bradley has been in throughout his career. Always available and able to help, but never able to settle and become the player that he's capable of being. He has flashes, spurts when he shows off just how good he can be -- but then his role changes again, and he has to start from square one. It happens to him at both club and international level, and it's frustrating to see him hamstrung like this over and over.

Make no mistake, Bradley is rarely poor or even below average, but because of how much he's swapped around, it's frustratingly rare that he gets to actually dominate a game. Every so often, he's permitted to play as something of a roaming playmaker, a more attacking version of a box-to-box midfielder that drifts around looking to support play at both ends of the pitch. He played this role to perfection against the Netherlands, leading his team to an eye-opening 4-3 comeback win.

The trouble is, Bradley just good enough to play as a true attacking midfielder or as a true defensive midfielder that when his manager needs someone in those spots for a match or two, it's too easy to make that switch. But he's not good enough in either role to truly excel -- they limit him too much and expose areas of his skillset that were never truly developed. He's just an okay tackler, just okay in tight spaces close to goal.

Klinsmann needs to pick a role for Bradley and keep him in it, preferably the one he played against the Netherlands. Let him get comfortable and showcase his strengths. If he's put into his best role and kept there, with a midfield built around him, he will be the USMNT's best player by far and the team will be better off for it.


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