On Saturday Bradford Jamieson IV made his first start in MLS, and quite honestly, he could not have been more impressive. Bradford started as a withdrawn striker, playing under the target man Gordon, and just as we've seen him do for Los Dos when paired with Jack McBean, Bradford thrived in the role.
It really matters with the formation, but as far as today goes, playing behind someone like Alan Gordon I feel a lot more comfortable. Getting the ball and being able to turn and go at guys at numerous times today when I was getting it at counter attacks and just being able to run it and not being stuck on the wings. It gives you a different angle to look at the game.
Now I like Bradford Jamieson IV a lot. I've been hard on him in the past, but only as a winger. As a forward, I think he has an incredibly high ceiling. What impresses me the most about Bradford is not just his pace, which is electric, but the intelligence of his runs. In fact, I think he is already farther along in this regard than Gyasi Zardes. BOOM! Yes, you read that right.
Let me explain. If I had to describe Bradford's performance on the night in one word, it would have to be:
Proactive: Controlling a situation by making things happen or by preparing for possible future problems
The art of the striker is not in finishing or any physical trait, but the reading of the game and determination of where the ball is going to be, and how to get to that position unmarked. It can also be described as the art of creating opportunities for your midfielders to play you into goal scoring positions, and not vice-versa. In reality, this can be summed up much simpler. The art of the striker is the art of the run, and to me, this is where Bradford Jamieson IV excels well beyond his years.
Here are 8 highlights to demonstrate this fact.
1. Bradford started the night strong by pulling left and seeking the ball. During this sequence he pulls defenders out of shape, and we saw some of that technical skill the scouts are raving about on the cutback across the defender for the cross.
2. Like a young Landon Donovan, this kid is absolutely electric on the counter and has the ability and audacity to wrong foot any defender and leave them in his dust.
3. Here is a great example of a proactive off-the-ball run from Jamieson. Watch as he feigns a far post run then slyly peels from it and snakes around the defender off his back shoulder and into position to possibly be played through on the near post. That's not where the ball ended up going, but had it, the defender would have been a good two or three steps late to react. It's the type of slippery run we used to see all the time from Landon Donovan when he played as a forward.
4. This one is small, but it's just a great example of Bradford being proactive. People often associate chance creation with crafty passes from crafty passers, but often times forwards are the ones making runs that invite these throughballs. They are, in essence, creating chances with their runs. This is one such run as Bradford is inviting a throughball.
5. Again, watch this kid bob and weave, peeling off one defenders back shoulder to position himself to peel off the next. This is really smart movement, folks, and it's normally not something you see from someone so young. Again, there is a reason I stated earlier that I believe Bradford's runs are already ahead of Gyasi's. Just watch this.
6. This one is kind of ruined by the cut away from the broadcast, but just watch how he uses his pace to make a run into dangerous space, then watch where he ends up after the cutaway.
7. This one is an absolute peach. Bradford utterly toys with the defender, dragging him right only to dart left, then back right again feigning a far post run just enough to get the defender to hesitates as he cuts inside to the near post for the shot. Did Di Vaio come out of retirement? No, Bradford is just that good.
8. And if you are going to play the kid on the wings, it's gotta be as an attacking winger in something other than a 4-4-2. Watch him use those same zig zag skills to receive a ball in a dangerous position outside the box.
Proactive, folks. This kid is constantly looking to make stuff happen with his feet, and he has the spatial intelligence and speed to be downright elite in this league as a striker. Bradford's only real struggles on the night came in the distribution department, the speed of MLS proving to be a bit too much for him, which only goes to further my point that this kid needs to be playing up top.
So where does Bradford fit into this team? That's a big question and one that kind of puts a damper on things. Alan Gordon has pretty much solidified himself as Bruce's super sub. It's also unlikely that Gyasi Zardes gets unseated any time soon. His production is way down and analytics point to him probably having a down year, but that's not really how this team operates.
So back to USL Pro for Bradford? It just doesn't seem right. The kid is MLS ready now and is at an absolutely crucial time in his development. He needs to be tested at the highest level and has proven that's where he belongs.
Sound off on where you think Bradford belongs.