America’s favorite soccer son is coming home. Well, to Canada at least.
If the rumors are true, U.S. Men’s National Team star Michael Bradley will be transferred from Italian team AS Roma to MLS side Toronto FC in the coming weeks. But with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil just five months away, players around the globe are working harder than ever to earn a spot on their respective national teams. So why is Bradley leaving one of the best leagues in Europe to join a team that doesn’t even start their season until March?
In truth, Bradley is actually in a great position to guarantee his spot on the national team compared to other American players. A perfect example is Clint Dempsey, who made the exact opposite move to Bradley by transferring from the Seattle Sounders FC to Fulham FC on loan in a bid to get regular playing time during the MLS offseason.
Although the deal represents a major coup for MLS, it seems like a step backwards for Bradley, who has featured regularly in the Roma starting 11 over the past two seasons and is well liked in the Eternal City.
Having earned the nickname “Captain America” from the Giallorossi faithful, Bradley’s tireless work rate, combined with his impressive ability to keep possession, allowed him to make the transition from mid-table side Chievo Verona to one of Italy’s greats. But with the arrival of Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan from Cagliari, Bradley is suddenly falling down the pecking order in a midfield that already features Roma legend Daniele De Rossi and Dutch international Kevin Strootman.
Not that Bradley has ever shied away competition. After making his professional debut for the MetroStars at the age of 16, Bradley made history by becoming the youngest MLS player ever to be sold when he signed for Dutch side Heerenveen in 2006. Stints with German side Borussia Mochengladbach and England’s Aston Villa allowed him to gain valuable experience and grow as a player, and after a standout season for Chievo in 2012, Roma came knocking.
One of Bradley’s greatest characteristics as a player is his ability to put his head down and work, which is one of the main reasons why he has been so successful in Rome. Staying true to his other nickname Il Generale, Bradley patrols the area in front of the Roma back line where, he breaks up opposition attacks and dishes the ball to creative players like captain Francesco Totti and Miralem Pjanic.
He can even score the occasional goal, such as the game-winner against Udinese that earned Roma’s ninth win in a row this season. A move to Toronto would surely be a mistake for many reasons.
As soccer in America continues to grow, we need more players like Bradley flying the American flag by going and staying overseas to play, not leaving and coming back. It is also disappointing that Bradley would jump at the opportunity to leave once his position was under threat.
At only 26, Bradley is a player in his prime and still has a lot to offer to both Roma and Europe. But if things go according to plan for Toronto, it’s only a matter of time until Bradley graces MLS pitches once again.