From the United States' first game at the World Cup, Michael Bradley was a target for criticism from fans and media.
Too many turnovers. Not sharp enough in possession. Losing the midfield battle. Not creating enough going forward. Bradley's game was scrutinized even as the U.S. progressed from a tough group into the round of 16.
The expectations were high for the 26-year-old and while Bradley covered a lot of ground and showed he's a midfield workhorse but lacked a cutting edge for most of the tournament.
#USA: Michael Bradley ran 2 miles more than next closest player (4 games) & 4.5 miles more than Jermaine Jones who ranked 3rd. That's Crazy!
— Ben Jata (@Ben_Jata) July 2, 2014
According to ProZoneSports, Bradley had 15 giveaways and 57% of his passes were played laterally. Not exactly the stats you would expect from a creative player. It didn't help that once Jozy Altidore was injured against Ghana, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to use Clint Dempsey up front, pushing Bradley into a slightly unfamiliar role.
Against Belgium, Bradley's contributions didn't come until it was too late. Down 2-0 in extra time he set up Julian Green's goal with a beautiful chip pass that cut the deficit to one.
— Martin Rogers (@mrogersyahoo) July 1, 2014
— Sean Jensen (@seankjensen) July 1, 2014
Can we please give Michael Bradley some credit for that beautiful pass and finally get off his back. Please
— Kara Lang (@Kara_Lang) July 1, 2014
A few minutes later, Bradley executed the first part of a free kick set play that almost resulted in an equalizing goal for Dempsey.
Those two plays are perfect examples of what Bradley is capable of doing at the game's highest level but he wasn't able to perform at that level enough to help the United States through to the quarterfinals.
Now he will now return to Toronto FC, where he will likely return to action July 12 against Houston.