Weekend Witness - - Sport -

RUSTEN­BURG — Big­name Euro­pean coaches were con­sid­ered when Bob Bradley be­came coach of the U.S. foot­ball team, but the vet­eran Amer­i­can men­tor made the job his own and melded a squad in his own im­age.

The pay­off for over three years of team­build­ing has come at the World Cup, where the Amer­i­can band of broth­ers bounced back from a 2006 firstround exit and have booked a date with Ghana to­day in the round of 16.

Con­fi­dence shown in Bradley when he took the job for six months on an in­terim ba­sis has paid off with a team de­voted to one an­other, bonded as a group with more con­cern about play­ing a role than in­di­vid­ual glory. “We be­lieve in what Bob does,” U.S. play­maker Lan­don Dono­van said. “It has taken a long time for some of us to wrap our heads around what Bob wanted from us. Now we are un­der­stand­ing why Bob put us through a lot of what he has.”

Through tour­na­ment af­ter tour­na­ment, in­clud­ing a 2009 Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup fi­nals run, U.S. play­ers were eval­u­ated, but also brought to­gether to form a lead­er­ship core, build­ing some into lead­ers, al­ter­ing the ap­proach of oth­ers.

“The men­tal­ity and fight in these guys is un­be­liev­able,” said U.S. for­ward Jozy Alti­dore. “Some­times, we want it too much.

“He’s right up there with the best coaches. He has earned a lot of re­spect from a lot of peo­ple.”

U.S. cap­tain Car­los Bo­cane­gra has been at the core of a squad that ral­lied to draw against Eng­land and Slove­nia and edged Al­ge­ria 1­0 to ad­vance to the last 16 thanks to a Dono­van goal in stop­page time.

“Guys want to play their heart out. Egos don’t get in­volved,” Bo­cane­gra said. “Who­ever scores, guys cheer them on. It’s about how the team per­forms.”

Alti­dore, the youngest U.S. player at 20, sees the bond in South Africa has come be­cause fam­ily and friends are kept at a dis­tance. “It sucks not see­ing wives, girl­friends, fam­i­lies,” he said. “We see each other and we get close. It makes you want to fight for the guy next to you.”

Is this not true of ev­ery team? “I don’t think so,” Alti­dore said. “I’m lucky to ex­pe­ri­ence this.” — Sapa­AFP.

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