A new role for Michael Bradley? 

November, 15, 2011

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- No matter where he lines up, it's difficult to keep Michael Bradley out of the middle of things. The U.S. midfielder took advantage of a chance to start at right midfielder to create chances on offense and timely frustration on defense in the Yanks' sigh-of-relief 3-2 victory over Slovenia.

Bradley's insertion into the starting lineup along with newcomer Fabian Johnson at left midfielder and Edson Buddle at forward created a lively, three-goal first half and the team's first road victory for new coach Jurgen Klinsmann. The victory contrasted with Friday's 1-0 suffocating loss at the hands of France and came amid grumbling from some media and fans over Klinsmann's slow start.

The Yanks' coach is 2-4-1 since taking over in July for the ousted Bob Bradley, and Klinsmann's team has struggled to find the net.

That changed on a foggy, frigid night in the Balkans. Klinsmann put the team, which has played most of his tenure with a lone striker, in a 4-4-2 with Michael Bradley on the right side of a midfield, opposite Johnson, while Clint Dempsey played behind the strikers and Kyle Beckerman featured in a defensive role that completed the diamond midfield.

The formation conceded several wing chances and over-the-top balls to the Slovenes but ignited the U.S. attack with high-intensity pressure. Dempsey created the first goal, a vicious strike off the post from distance by Buddle less than 10 minutes into the match, by picking off a careless pass from Slovenia keeper Samir Handanovich.

The play typified the U.S. midfield performance through the first half, with the foursome pressuring the Slovenes into mistakes that bred scoring opportunities for an athletic American lineup. And Bradley was especially effective tracking back to help out when the U.S. lost the ball.

"We know that Michael has tremendous qualities, in his commitment, where he can cover so much ground, how he stays calm, very experienced," Klinsmann said.

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.