TORONTO — American captain Michael Bradley says anyone who qualifies for a U.S. passport has "every right" to play for the national team.
The 28-year-old Toronto FC skipper was reacting to comments by recently retired U.S. women's star striker Abby Wambach who said she disagreed with American men's coach Juergen Klinsmann recruiting a "bunch of these foreign guys."
"I don't believe in it," she told the Bill Simmons podcast.
Bradley, while expressing his respect for Wambach and her storied career, disagreed.
"I feel strongly that one of the beautiful things about the United States, one of the things that makes our country so special is the way that we welcome people from all over the world and in some ways give them opportunities to start new lives or to live better lives," he told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. "I think that's what we represent.
"In terms of the national team, if you're able to get an American passport then you have every right to represent our national team. And at the end of the day, we should be judging guys on their commitment to the team and their willingness to give everything they have for our country. Not where they were born or what country their parents were born in. That's not how it works."
Wambach cited German-born Jermaine Jones and Fabian Johnson, while saying she loved watching both players in action.
Wambach also said she thought U.S. Soccer should fire Klinsmann.
Bradley said he was surprised that Wambach's comments had come out the same day as her U.S. swan song last week against China.
"I found it a little bit strange that on the day of her last game she wanted to spend any time at all talking about things with our team in that way," he said. "We've always been incredibly supportive of her and the women in everything that they do."
On Tuesday, Bradley was named U.S. male player of the year. It was the first win and fourth nomination for Bradley, who was also honoured as U.S. Soccer's Young Male Player of the Year in 2007.
"Something I'm very proud of," he said.
The Americans went 10-7-3 in 2015 with wins over the Netherlands, Germany and Mexico. But they finished the year on a 1-3-1 run with losses to Brazil, Mexico and Costa Rica, with the Mexico defeat costing the U.S. a place in the 2017 Confederations Cup,
"Obviously from a team standpoint it was a disappointing year in terms of our inability to come away with what we needed to in some big moments," Bradley said. "That will still be a big part of what I remember from the year, but we need that to push us on."
Bradley, taking over from skipper Clint Dempsey in July, captained the U.S. in 16 of his 18 matches in 2015 when he scored three goals with six assists. He has 109 career caps with 15 goals for the U.S.
Bradley helped lead Toronto FC to its first playoff appearance in club history this past season.
Voters for the U.S. award included national team coaches and staff, men's national team players who appeared in 2015, men's national team and youth national team coaches, MLS and North American Soccer League head coaches, and select former players, administrators and media.
Bradley received 43 per cent of the votes, followed by Johnson (33 per cent) and Clint Dempsey (20 per cent).
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press