Us_mex_jo_9-8-2013_0270_dxo Jeremy Olson for American Soccer Now
Direct from Columbus

Michael Bradley's Absence a Blessing in Disguise?

The Americans' best player won't play against Mexico on Tuesday night but the likely starting combination of Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman might be perfect for the proceedings.

BY Noah Davis Posted
September 09, 2013
6:36 PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Michael Bradley stood on the field at Crew Stadium on Monday afternoon, knowing he wouldn't see action in Tuesday night's World Cup qualifier against Mexico. The American midfielder sprained his ankle on the soft turf of Costa Rica's Estadio Nacional and will miss the match.

His injury, however, might work in the U.S.'s favor.

Make no mistake, the Americans are better with Bradley on the field. They are more dynamic, more focused, more cohesive. But against a rabid Mexico team desperate for a win the combination of Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman would be perfect as it provides easily defined roles for each man. The Schalke midfielder can push forward as he does so well while the Real Salt Lake captain will stay back and bolster the backline.

Jones doesn't want to replace his injured teammate, nor should he. He simply wants to play his own game, and Beckerman's inclusion in the Starting XI would allow him to do so.

"I don't look to step up into [Bradley's] role. I try to play my own game and to help the team to win the game. Michael's an important player for us. We have been playing a long time together and we know each other good. But the guy who steps in for him needs to take his role. I try to help this guy who steps in," he said.

He continued with a breakdown of how Beckerman's insertion into the line up would free him up: "When Kyle plays, he has more of the defense side and I can go more in front. But it's not important who plays with me. Both of us will try to make a better game than we did in Costa Rica."

Jones and Beckerman have not played in a match together in 2013 but they will be able to work as a unit because both men know what they need to do. Bradley and Jones occasionally suffer from being too like-minded.

Against Costa Rica, Tim Howard noted a deficiency that the Beckerman-Jones duo might fix.

"They were into our backline quickly. As soon as the ball turned over, they were into our backline. And you need to make teams work for that," he said.

You know who's a guy who can help relieve some of that pressure? Beckerman, who thrives sitting just ahead of the defensive line. He'll act as a fifth defender and a perfect No. 6 while Jones moves up field.

Bradley will watch the proceedings from the bench, a role he's not happy about but one that he is resigned to perform as well as he can. "For me, the main focus has been being around the guys, being around the group and just helping in any little way I can," he said. "Make sure that as a team we're ready to step on the field tomorrow night."

He can help that and do even more. For one evening, and one evening only, the midfielder on the sidelines might be exactly what the Stars and Stripes need.

Noah Davis is ASN's deputy editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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