(Sunday, March 30, 2008) -- United States midfielder Michael Bradley didn't score and moderately hot Heerenveen played hard, but was brought down to earth in a 4-2 loss to visiting league power Ajax Amsterdam Saturday at Abe Lenstra Stadion.
Heerenveen had won three in a row after suffering two straight losses and going four consecutive outings (0-2-2) without a victory.
Bradley is Heerenveen's leading scorer with 15 goals in league action, 19 in all competitions. Generally, if Bradley finds net, his club wins; when he doesn't score, it spells defeat and that was the case against Ajax.
Luis Suarez gave second-place Ajax (17-5-9, 60 points) a lead just before intermission and Kenneth Perez made it 2-0 in the 55th minute. After Miralem Sulejmani narrowed the deficit for Heerenveen, Ajax striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar added a pair of goals to increase the margin to a safe 4-1.
A week earlier. the United States under-23 men wanted Bradley for their CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but Heerenveen's refusal to release him paid dividends. Bradley scored twice, including the game-winner, to lead his team to a 4-3 home triumph March 22 over Roda JC Kerkrade. (The U.S. qualified anyway.)
Roda had jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals in the 25th and 27th minutes when Bradley started the comeback. In the 34th minute, Gerald Sibon took the ball to the end line and squared it back to Bradley, who beat Roda goalkeeper Bram Castro to narrow the deficit to 2-1.
Roda quickly made it 3-1. However, Paulo Cameiro Henrique scored in the 47th minute and Roy Beerens the equalizer four minutes later to set the stage for Bradley's decisive tally in the 61st minute.
The winning sequence started with a poorly-taken Heerenveen corner kick that was only partially cleared by the Roda defense. The ball came back into the box off a deflection and Bradley pounced on it, sending a hard shot into the net.
On March 14, Bradley went 90 minutes and forward Miralem Sulejmani scored in the 85th minute for Heerenveen in a 1-0 road win at FC Groningen.
On March 8, Bradley scored a goal in a 3-0 decision over visiting NAC Breda, ending the 0-2-2 skid in which Bradley scored only once.
Bradley opened the scoring against Breda in the 33rd minute. He had narrowly missed on a header in the opening minutes, but then he took a hard shot after settling a pass from Gerald Sibon and his shot went after a deflection.
At 16-9-6 with 54 points, Heerenveen is tied for fifth place in the Dutch Eredivisie with Feyenord Rotterdam, though Heerenveen's goal differential, the first tie-breaker is 16 better than Feyenoord. Both teams trail Twente Enschede (15-6-10) by one point and NAC (17-8-6) by three.
The second-through-fifth teams enter the qualifying round for the European Champions Cup. The next four clubs after that enter qualifying for the second-tier UEFA Cup.