Michael Bradley has earned his spot. Again. (And he’s learning new languages, too)

Leave a comment

For whatever reason, it seemed before that Michael Bradley had to do extra to earn his place on Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team.

Bradley played sparingly as the Klinsi got rolling last year. The scowling midfielder did start against Mexico during the manager’s splashy August debut, but didn’t find his name on the lineup for the next five matches. (None of those were impressive results, by the way.) Bradley appeared off the bench in two of those contests, and then did get back into the lineup as the Americans beat Slovenia, finally turning up a little offense in a 3-2 triumph over the tiny Balkans nation.

We don’t need to talk about the two USMNT friendlies to open 2012; those are for fringe national teamers, like Dynamo center back Geoff Cameron and former MLS defender Michael Parkhurst, both of whom shined in wins over Venezuela and Panama, winning subsequent spots on last week’s roster against Italy.

Bradley was on the roster, too. And he started. And he hardly looked out of his element, more than holding his own against one of the world’s top nations. Not that any of that should surprise anyone – not anyone who has watched the United States objectively over the last few years.

Not everyone can be. Clearly “objectivity” is a concept lost on some folks. So claims of nepotism were endemic in some circles during the previous World Cup cycle when Bradley’s father, Bob Bradley, ran the team.  But straining to make a case that Michael Bradley wasn’t earning his chops, independent of dad’s position, landed somewhere between “stretch” and “just plain ridiculous.” The guy can play. Period.

All that said, he seemed to have to prove himself all over again under Klinsmann, and he’s apparently done just that. I gave him high marks vs. Slovenia. And pretty much everyone gave him a big, ol’ fat check-plus against Italy, including the New York Time’s Jack Bell.

The U.S. Soccer communications staff took some time while in Italy to visit with Bradley at his new club, Chievo Verona. He’s well integrated into the team now, and here’s one reason: the American midfielder put in the work to learn the language. Quite quickly, in fact.  That’s huge in terms of gaining acceptance and establishing yourself as a club fixture, not just someone using the small Serie A club as a stopover pending the next move. Read the piece at USSoccer.com and see for yourself.

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter
Leave a comment

After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

AP Photo/Alberto Saiz
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Leave a comment

Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.