ESPN's Jeff Carlisle says the national team mood ahead of this weekend's friendly against Sweden is decidedly calmer than it was at this time 12 months ago. For one thing, the relationship between coach Bob Bradley and the team is on firmer ground, as Bradley was an "interim" coach last January.
"I think we know each other well, and on the inside there is a good level of trust in terms of what we're doing and our vision and the way we go about things," Bradley said in an interview. "But at the same time, the ideas are basically the same and we're reinforcing things that we think are important and we're constantly trying to build and understand exactly what it is going to take to be a very, very good team."
For the players, however, the change has taken some getting used to-even for veterans like striker/midfielder Landon Donovan. "Initially we lost a little bit of freedom [off the field] that we were used to having," Donovan said. "Now that you know what it's about, it's easy." There has also been some big-time transitioning on the field, too, particularly with the retirement of veterans like Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride and Kasey Keller. As such, Bradley has incorporated more players into the national team pool than former coach Bruce Arena, bringing in a broad mix of young and old players. For the Sweden game, both teams will field younger rosters heavily comprised of players from their domestic leagues. Veterans like Zlatan Ibrahimovic won't be available for Sweden, as the friendly doesn't fall on a FIFA-designated international date.