Okay, that headline was kind of, sort of, clickbait.
Okay, it was totally clickbait. But it’s 2017 — this is how Big J Journo’s like myself make a living. I need clicks — my family may feed me and put a roof over my head, but they can’t quite boost my ego the way racking up page views does — and if I don’t deceive you to contribute to the cause, I haven’t done my job.
If you’re here for Michael Bradley, you’ll have to scroll down a bit. But if you wanna read how I was inspired to do this like the reasonable reader you are, check out the backstory below.
If you do, I can guarantee you’ll end up thinking the same thing I did when I wrote it; “meh, that wasn’t terrible but I could’ve used my time more productively.”
I’ve been meaning to make myself a blog for a while, well over a year at this point. Two days ago, I finally pulled trigger and now here we are.
I was going to write my first piece about myself — who I am, what I’ve done so far in my career as a sports journalist, where I’ve went and where I want to go, all that jazz — but I’ll have to save that for another day. That’s because today I witnessed something so great, I had to devote my first blog to it.
The final semester of my junior year in college (!!!) ended a week or so ago, the time between then and now filled with me sitting at my desk at home consuming an unholy amount of movies, music and TV shows I hadn’t been able to catch while at school.
But even bats need to see the sun every once in a while (or do they? I don’t know, I’m a journalism major), so when I saw that the New York Red Bulls, who play 10 minutes away from my house, were hosting the best team in the Eastern Conference on a Friday night, I was intrigued. When I saw tickets were selling for 6 dollars, I too was sold.
I completely forgot about the entire world there was outside the doors of my home to explore, and folks, I experienced a healthy amount of life en route to and inside Red Bull Arena.
Most of those things, however, didn’t light a fire inside me that could only be extinguished by putting it into a hot take and throwing it on my freshly made blog.
It wasn’t the change in scenery on Felipe’s freshly shaved head, a buzzcut that convinced me the Red Bulls signed a new defensive midfielder when I wasn’t paying attention.
It wasn’t the Law of Rasheed Wallace playing out before my very eyes, with Luis Robles diving to his left to save a Jozy Altidore penalty that shouldn’t have been called. Altidore, an American playing at a club in his country’s hat, had bulldozed his defender seconds earlier, a foul which wasn’t called because, from what I can tell up on the third deck, Altidore had said “soorey!” shortly after knocking him over.
From that same seat, I was able to read Robles’ lips as he jumped to his feet to celebrate saving his team from losing to a Giovinco-less Toronto team which would’ve won by 3 goals had the best player in the league not suffered a quad injury.
With his arms spread as wide as the gap in talent between Giovinco and every single one of his teammates, Robles appeared to have belted out “BALL. DON’T. LIE.”
And finally, it wasn’t obnoxious lady behind me sitting down with her three friends, screaming things that, quite frankly, didn’t make much sense.
Here’s a couple of examples.
Let’s set the scene; it’s the start of the second half and the Red Bulls are creating more pressure in attack than they did in the entirety of the first half. Sasha Kljestan — who was invisible for most of the first half until he served in the ball that allowed Alex Muyl to set up Bradley Wright-Phillips goal — gets the ball at the top of the box with some space to shoot. Only there is one problem; he’s on his right foot. No offense to Sasha, but considering his abilities with his weak foot, I think I’d have an equal chance of scoring in the same position.
But the fan behind me wouldn’t have it.
“Shoot the fucking ball!” she shreaked, hoping the louder she proclaimed the advice, the faster it would travel down to the pitch, into his ear, through his body and into his leg. And while it may have bruised my right ear drum, it didn’t carry quick enough as Kljestan, who had a less-than-stellar performance on the night, pushed the ball back onto his left and effectively killed the attack.
“God damn it,” was uttered in response, more in frustration than in support.
Half-an-hour and many, many loose passes all over the pitch later, a kerfuffel (shout-out Steph Curry) breaks out in the Red Bull penalty area. The ball goes in past Luis Robles, completing Toronto’s comeback and triggering a reaction from the seemingly always intense goalkeeper — I wouldn’t be shocked if the stare he gives his defenders inspired Cyclops’ laser. He pushed Victor Vazquez, who embellished Robles’ power with some Spanish gamesmanship.
Our friend didn’t take that kindly.
“Get up, you fucking pussy!” she screamed at Vazquez, who eventually followed her orders. The referee, surely hearing the wrath in her voice, disallowed the goal for offside and, Vazquez be damned, issued Robles a yellow card for his actions, a light punishment for something that usually warrants a red card and expulsion from the match.
“Good,” our friend proclaimed, explaining her rationale shortly thereafter. “This is MEN’S soccer, so they better act like it.”
She sure told them.
No, it was none of the above that had me rushing to get home to write down these thoughts, the ones running laps around my mind as I listened to the same song over and over to keep the words inside my head.
I was inspired to write this because I witnessed a performance so great on that pitch, one that I know few people noticed and even fewer will point out, I couldn’t let it go to waste.
Essentially, it all boils down to this – Michael Bradley was in-fucking-credible tonight (excuse my sounding like the lady from earlier, but not including the middle word would do Bradley’s performance an injustice that would make the Manitowoc County Sherriff’s Department go “sheesh, that’s a bit too much, don’tcha think?” (Free my man Brendan Dassey).
From the moment the USMNT captain first touched the ball, I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I don’t think he’s ever lost possession or made a bad pass in his career. WhoScored.com agreed with my assessment of his performance to an extent, awarding him a team-high 7.0 rating. Had they not made an error in saying he was dispossessed once on the night, it would’ve been even higher.
It’s cliché of me to say, but it felt like time slowed when he had the ball at his feet, as if he was playing at a different pace than everyone else. It truly felt like it was Michael Bradley putting on a showcase for 21 other players, 4 referees and thousands of others sitting in the stands, likely ignorant to his brilliance.
His touches were softer than the voicemail Drake left in Marvin’s Room, as thoughtful as a personalized gift to a spouse on a random Tuesday in July. His passes were weighted perfectly like a wrestler on the final day of a cut; the short ones on the ground traveling like the world’s most efficient Über ride, the longer ones lofting through the air, their trajectory from his foot to that of his teammates resembling the build-up and drop of your favorite EDM song.
Bradley is so good, Felipe shaved off his curly Brazilian locks hoping some of the magic of the baldness would rub off on him.
Bradley played so well, Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch went up to him after the game to talk all about it. They had their backs to me as they spoke, but based on the facts I wrote above, I imagine Marsch was asking the midfielder to sign some permission slips for his players to practice on Monday after Bradley had made them his sons.
Michael Bradley was immaculate enough that I declared him as a top 5 player I’ve seen in person within the first 21 minutes of the match.
For the record, I’ve seen the G.O.A.T (Cristiano Ronaldo), the clutchest player in the sport’s history (Éderzito), the best British striker of them all (Shane Long), a living saint (Rui Patricio) the most heavily tattooed player in the history of the game (Raul Meireles), the Martin Luther King Jr. of football (William Carvalho) (Quick aside just to clarify; this is a comparison my father has been making for years based on his calm demeanor and the mustache. He’s not the only one. I’ll admit to being skeptical at first, but consider this — have you ever seen both men in the same room?), among many other talented footballers.
Michael Bradley was perfect onFriday night at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey — or at least good enough to get me to pop my blogging cherry on a beautiful Friday night in my first week of summer vacation.
Follow @briannnnf on Twitter for hot takes, poor attempts at humor and for the occasional pick-me-up.