Monday, January 20, 2014

Performance Pressures Mount for Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley

2014 is the year for Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley to make their biggest marks on the U.S. soccer world.  It is hard to argue against this point.  The two soccer stars have their chance to enhance the profile of MLS and lead the U.S. National Team to success at the World Cup.

It is hard to imagine two other U.S. soccer players under more pressure.  The reason for this is because their return to club soccer with MLS coincides with the lead-up to World Cup.

There are enormous pressures placed onto the shoulders of both of them like no other American players have probably ever felt before.

It would be completely unfair to place any more U.S. soccer expectations on Landon Donovan.  What he has accomplished in his career is the singular best efforts of any club player or National Team player.  Anything more to come from Landon now is just gravy.

As for Jozy Altidore and other players, yes, there is pressure to perform well at World Cup.  However, due to playing club soccer outside the U.S., it is a different type of pressure he and the others will feel throughout this year.

Then, there are other MLS players like Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman who will probably see some playing time with the U.S. National Team in World Cup, but they are not likely to feel the burden that Dempsey and Bradley will endure.  They have all been playing a while now in MLS and they are less likely to be difference makers in goal scoring opportunities.

Dempsey and Bradley are different and better.  They are known for scoring and assisting on goals, as well as for dramatic finishes and touches with the ball.  Both have the ability to take over a match and bend it in favor of their team.

Even though Dempsey played some for the Seattle Sounders last season, it really didn't feel like he got any symmetry or momentum going.  Mainly, it was due to him arriving late in the season.

Now, both Dempsey with the Sounders and newly transferred Bradley with Toronto FC will have no excuses for this upcoming MLS season.  Both will come into MLS camp in form as they prepare for the year to come (Dempsey is currently doing extra work on loan in the EPL).

Dempsey and Bradley should be applauded for their willingness to take on the U.S. Soccer mantle to help drive more fans to games in MLS while doing their best to provide suspense and surprise in the World Cup.

Altidore and others are probably waiting for after the World Cup to come play in MLS knowing the pressures out there are massive during this critical stretch.

It's rough to say that so many hopes rest on the shoulders of two players, but that is how it is in 2014.

These mighty challenges for Dempsey and Bradley will test their soccer abilities and personalities at every level.  They are expected to carry a league and somewhat carry the U.S. Men's National Team at World Cup.  In many ways, they are in a no-win situation.  Let's hope they come through it all and lead soccer in the U.S. to an even better place going into 2015.

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