United States midfielder Michael Bradley and teammate Christian Pulisic have brushed off recent harsh criticism from former U.S. defender Alexi Lalas, with Bradley saying that being subjected to scrutiny is "part of being an athlete."
Lalas on Sunday blasted the U.S. national team, which is struggling to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, calling the players "soft, tattooed millionaires."
After losing to Costa Rica and drawing in Honduras this month, the U.S. team will have its qualification hopes go down to the final day of CONCACAF qualifying. If the side cannot improve on its current fourth-place standing, it could move on to an intercontinental playoff against Australia or Syria in November.
And Lalas, now a commentator for Fox Sports, made his feelings clear -- player by player -- which included calling for Bradley to stop being "zen" and to "play better."
Bradley, however, said he wasn't affected by Lalas' words, telling SportsNet on Wednesday it's all part of the profession.
"Part of being an athlete, a competitor, is understanding that everybody has an opinion, especially in the world today," Bradley said. "Everybody has a platform to fire off a hot take whenever they want.
"It's life. You're in the wrong business if that throws you off."
"You use it in the right ways; you use it as motivation," Bradley added. "You make sure you don't forget who the [people] along the way are who had a lot to say.
"One of the recent [sayings] that I've seen that I like is, 'The lion doesn't care about the opinion of the sheep.' I'll leave it at that. ... It's pretty fitting."
Jozy Altidore, meanwhile, shot back at Lalas on Wednesday with a zinger of his own.
I dont even have any tattoos 🤔.— Jozy Altidore (@JozyAltidore) September 13, 2017
Lalas also called out Pulisic, although not by name, saying: "Oh, by the way, to all the guys that I didn't mention, it's because you don't even warrant a mention. That includes you too, Wonder Boy."
The Wonder Boy reference was directed at Pulisic, the 18-year-old star for Borussia Dortmund and the U.S. team who quickly is becoming the next big thing in American soccer. Following Dortmund's 3-1 loss to Tottenham in the Champions League on Wednesday, Pulisic was asked about the comments from Lalas.
"I heard about it," said Pulisic. "I am not going to lose sleep about what Alexi Lalas has to say about us. He can say what he wants."
The United States will wrap up its qualifying campaign next month, with matches against Panama on Oct. 6 and Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 10.