After painful World Cup setback, Bradley turns focus back to Toronto FC

After painful World Cup setback, Bradley turns focus back to Toronto FC

TORONTO — Michael Bradley hopes there will be another World Cup in his future.

If there is, the Toronto FC and U.S. captain will be 35 by the time the 2022 World Cup in Qatar rolls round.

"We'll see," he said Thursday after arriving home from Trinidad & Tobago where Tuesday's shock 2-1 loss, coupled with Honduras and Panama wins, prevented the U.S. from qualifying for the first time since missing out on the 1986 World Cup.

"Time will tell, how things unfold over the next few months, over the next year. Obviously the decisions will get made at the highest level in terms of what goes on inside U.S. Soccer. At some point, there will be a clear path going forward. And there'll be time at that point to then have a real discussion with those people to see where it all fits."

As for that post-mortem, Bradley said he had his views and would share them "in the right moments ... with people on the inside." 

In the meantime he said he would "stand tall and face the music."

Bradley, who has won 140 caps for his country, is one of only two American players to play every minute of the last two FIFA World Cups. The defensive midfielder has also represented the U.S. at the FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

"I can say that playing for my national team and representing my country has been something that I have always taken a huge amount of pride in," Bradley continued. "It's given me some of the proudest moments of my career and I will continue to work and try to make sure that there are better moments still coming."

As he did in Couva, Trinidad, after Tuesday's loss, Bradley called the evening a "perfect storm"

"We're not the first country or big country to miss out on a World Cup and we won't be the last. We had our chance in Trinidad to play 90 minutes to get ourselves in. On the night, it was a perfect storm in three stadiums that led to us not getting in."

Failure to get results earlier in the round meant there was no room for error.

"We have nobody to blame but ourselves for that," Bradley said.

A win would have sent the U.S. to the 2018 World Cup to Russia. A draw would likely also have sent the Americans to their eighth straight trip to the World Cup with Panama (eight goals) and Honduras (13 goals) facing an uphill battle in goal differential.

Instead the 28th-ranked Americans lost to No. 99 T&T, No. 74 Honduras beat No. 14 Mexico 3-2 and No. 60 Panama edged No. 21 Costa Rica 2-1.

Bradley says the disappointment won't go away any time soon, saying he was "very upset, disappointed, angry that we couldn't get the job done." But he won't let those emotions carry over into his MLS team's playoff push.

"It's not like you just forget about a game like that or the way things unfolded. But you can't feel sorry for yourself. You can't dwell on things because the reality is there's no changing it."

League-leading Toronto (19-5-8) plays its penultimate regular-season game Sunday against Montreal (11-15-6).

"As an athlete and as a competitor, you have no choice but to keep going," Bradley said. "When you play and compete at the highest level, there are no guarantees ever ... The only chance you have is to give everything you have, to spill your heart and your soul into something.

"And even by doing that, there's no guarantee that you get anything out on the other side. So when things don't go your way, when there's adversity, you have no choice but to respond, to keep going, to keep working, to use it as motivation. And that's what I'll do."

Bradley and Toronto striker Jozy Altidore, who did not speak to the media Thursday, appeared in 15 of the U.S. team's 16 CONCACAF qualifiers for Russia 2018.

Altidore took to social media Wednesday to apologize for the failure to qualify.

"I am so sorry we let you down this time around," he said.

The 27-year-old Altidore asked U.S. team fans to keep the faith, saying "The best days for soccer in this country are still to come."

Altidore, who has won 110 caps for the U.S., and Bradley have the support of their TFC teammates.

Veteran defender Drew Moor, who won five caps for the U.S. team, said he was "devastated" for Altidore and Bradley "and for all of U.S. Soccer."

Coach Greg Vanney, who played for the U.S. 36 times, said Tuesday's results left him "gutted" for Altidore and Bradley and for the American program.

"My hope is that what comes out of it is a real honest assessment of where everything is at," he said of U.S. Soccer.

 

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press