Michael Bradley to BBC: ‘If the first game were in Cairo, I’d be there’

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In the BBC’s World Football podcast released on Friday, United States and AS Roma midfielder Michael Bradley spoke at length about his club’s excellent start to the season and his father, Bob Bradley, coaching the Egyptian national team.

Here is a full transcript of the interview, which begins near the start of the podcast.

BBC (1:53 mark of the podcast): “Despite suffering an ankle injury, the USA international has been reveling in the team’s excellent run.”

Michael Bradley: “I think what you’ve seen over the past few years here at the club is that they’ve built a strong foundation for the future. Unfortunately, there have been times in the past few years where the results haven’t been what everybody had hoped. To then cap that off by losing the Italian Cup final last year to Lazio was a massive disappointment for anybody involved with the club.

“But beneath that disappointment was still a strong foundation for the future. So I think the club did very well in the summer to assess the situation, to decide which players were needed here, to decide which players had value in the transfer market, and they really did a good job of now finding the right coach, allowing him the chance to work with players who he wanted, and so far this season, what you’re seeing is the fruit of all that work.”

BBC: “The Coppa Italia final, where Roma lost to Lazio: Is it too much to say that that was an embarrassment or humiliation — just the fact that they lost to Lazio?”

MB: ” ‘Embarrassment’ and ‘humiliation’ are not words that I would use. We all know what football at the highest level is like, especially then, when you get to a final. It’s all about who, on the day, is able to make a play. The margin between winning and losing is so fine. Certainly, losing to our biggest rivals in the final of a cup, allowing them to lift that trophy in front of us, in front of our fans — I think, when I speak to my friends, who are Romans [and] supporters of the club, you’re talking about one of the darkest days in the history of the club, without a doubt.

“But from disappointment and from failure to win a cup like that comes even more determination and commitment. As I said, there’s a group of players and coaches here this year that are determined to put that right.”

BBC: “Explain how fierce this rivalry actually is.”

MB: “It’s difficult to describe to anybody, honestly, outside of Rome, outside of Italy. The only thing you can tell somebody is to come to the stadium one day and see it. Actually, better off coming to the stadium, to Rome, the week of that game, and you start to feel and start to understand what this means for the people.”

BBC: “Talk to me about Francesco Totti. I mean, he’s been here for nearly as long as you’ve been alive. Explain how much of a legend he is at this club.”

MB: “He’s the symbol for this club. He’s the symbol for every Roman, for every fan. For every person who’s grown up in this city, who’s dreamed of playing professional football, he is the idol, the symbol, the example. He obviously grew up in Rome. He’s never left. He’s won the Scudetto, he’s won Italian Cups, and really, more than anything, what people here have so much respect for him about is his loyalty. Through a career where, really, [he was] one of the best players in the world, with the opportunity to go to the biggest clubs — Real Madrid — he always chose to stay loyal to this city, to these colors, to his club. So in those ways, he is somebody who is a legend.”

BBC: “I’d just like to ask you about your dad [former U.S. head coach Bob Bradley]. He’s developed something of a hero status after going to coach the Egypt national team and refusing to leave the country, even amid all of the post-revolutionary turmoil that’s been going on there. What’s your view of his attitude and his steadfast support of the Egyptian people and their football fans?”

MB: “Incredibly proud. Incredibly proud of him, of my mother — who is there with him — and their commitment to finishing what he started. He went there with the idea, with the dream, of taking Egypt to the World Cup. In the midst of all the instability in their country, in the midst of the revolution, in the midst of massacres, in the midst of so much trouble in their country, they have managed to keep a group of guys focused and committed on really, the dream of the entire country.

“I think it’s in these ways, in these moments, that we’re all able to see how powerful football is. I mean, a country like that, with so much turmoil, maybe the only thing thing that the Egyptians can agree on is their love and support for the national team and how the dream is to see them back in a World Cup.”

BBC: “Do you ever worry about your old man and your mom?”

MB: “No. The Egyptian people have been incredible to them. There’s not been a day where they feel in any way unsafe or not at home. They’ve grown to really like Cairo. The people, as I said, have been great to them, and so we’re excited for what they’re doing and hoping that they can finish off this dream.”

BBC: “They’re two games away from doing that. You’re injured at the moment, so you can’t play in the next league fixture here or for the States in their final World Cup qualifiers. Are you tempted to go to Ghana and join your dad in the first leg of their World Cup qualifier?”

MB: “If the first game were in Cairo, I’d be there for sure. Ghana might be a little bit more difficult to get to, but I’ll be watching and cheering like every other Egyptian that day.”

La Liga: Sevilla win late to move even with Atletico Madrid in 3rd

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MADRID (AP) Wissam Ben Yedder scored three minutes after entering the game to give Sevilla a late 2-1 win over 10-man Celta Vigo in the Spanish league on Thursday.

The victory moved Sevilla even on points with third-place Atletico Madrid with four matches left. Third place guarantees an automatic spot in the Champions League next season, while the fourth-placed team has to go through a playoff.

Ben Yedder netted the winner from close range after a low cross by Samir Nasri in the 79th minute, beating a defender to the ball and hitting the top of the net with a right-footed shot.

“It was a complex game but the team was able to overcome the difficulties,” Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli said.

Joaquin Correa put the host ahead after halftime, and Iago Aspas equalized by converting a penalty kick just minutes later. Aspas did not celebrate the goal out of respect to fans of his former club.

Sevilla dominated from the start and was pressuring vigorously in search of the winner, especially after Celta went a man down when midfielder Pablo Hernandez was sent off with a second yellow card in the 56th with the game 1-1.

Sergio Escudero and Nasri each struck the crossbar a few minutes apart late in the second half, and Vicente Iborra also had hit the woodwork earlier in the game played under steady rain in Seville.

It was the third win in four matches for Sevilla after a streak of five games without a win.

Sevilla and Atletico are level on points, but the Madrid club is ahead on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Top PL Storylines: Bye-bye, St. Totteringham’s Day? So long, Sunderland?

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Ahead of Week 34 of the 2016-17 Premier League season, we’re most looking forward to keeping an eye on the following storylines…

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Cancel St. Totteringham’s Day?

8,018 days (otherwise known as 22.9 years) have passed since Tottenham Hotspur last finished above Arsenal in the Premier League. First of all, that’s a lot of days. Secondly, the time to reset that clock is nearly upon us, as Tottenham take a 14-point lead into Sunday’s North London derby (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) — perhaps the final one to be played at White Hart Lane. With Arsenal having only five games left to play after Sunday, a 17-point deficit would be mathematically impossible to overcome, and would guarantee Spurs’ first PL finish above Arsenal since the spring of 1995.

The fact that Spurs could end that embarrassing, heinous streak in a game against Arsenal, in perhaps their next-to-last game at White Hart Lane, and maybe even close to within a single point of Chelsea in the title race… it’s almost all too timely and too perfect to believe it could really happen… to Spurs.


Finish the job

With all due respect to Middlesbrough (home), West Bromwich Albion (away), Watford (home) and Sunderland (home), Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park, where they’ve lost on their last two visits (all competitions) and they’ll take on seventh-place Everton (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com), is far and away the toughest remaining fixture on Chelsea’s schedule as they chase a fifth PL-era title (fifth in all eras). Having booked their spot in the FA Cup final by beating Spurs last weekend, Antonio Conte is dreaming of — and a favorite to win — a double in his first season at Stamford.


Someone has to finish top-four

Ahead of the weekend, two points separate Liverpool (third), Manchester City (fourth) and Manchester United (fifth), with Arsenal another four back in sixth (but possessing a game in hand). Given all the points dropped by each of the aforementioned sides in recent weeks, it’s important to remember that someone has to finish third and fourth in the PL this season.

We’ve already discussed Arsenal’s titanic task, so here’s the challenges facing the other three this round: Liverpool, at Watford (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com); Man City, at Middlesbrough (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, on  NBCSports.com); Manchester United, vs. Swansea City (7 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com).


So long, Sunderland?

For five seasons now, Sunderland have flirted with relegation from the PL; and every previous season, they’ve pulled a rabbit out of the hat and managed to stay up. This season, though, under David Moyes, there appears to be no rabbit. With five games to go, safety is a whopping 12 points away, which means a loss to Bournemouth on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSports.com), coupled with a win or draw by 17th-place Hull City, would officially send Sunderland to the Championship next season. If the Black Cats somehow find their way out of this predicament, a northeastern knighthood awaits Mr. Moyes.

French authorities investigating 2018, 2022 World Cup bids

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PARIS (AP) French financial prosecutors are investigating the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and have heard former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

A person with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press on Thursday that France’s financial prosecutor services (PNF) opened the investigation on grounds of private corruption, criminal association, influence peddling, and benefiting from influence peddling relating to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Blatter was questioned in Switzerland last week as a witness, the same person told the AP.

The office of the attorney general of Switzerland said in a statement that “at the request of and in the context of proceedings being conducted by French justice authorities, it has questioned Mr. Joseph Blatter in his capacity as a person providing information on the 20th April 2017 in Zurich.”

The PNF opened its investigation last year.

FIFA has also been targeted by investigations led by Swiss and US authorities. Last month, FIFA sent 1,300 pages of internal investigation reports into suspected bribery and corruption to Switzerland’s attorney general. The documents complete a 22-month probe by legal firm Quinn Emanuel, which FIFA retained in the fallout from United States and Swiss federal prosecutors revealing their sprawling investigations of soccer corruption in May 2015.

Blatter said last week that he met with U.S. Department of Justice investigators and insisted he was not a suspect in their bribery and corruption case linked to FIFA.

Blatter was suspended from office in September 2015 and later banned from soccer by the FIFA ethics committee.

Johannsson expected to leave Bremen this summer — is MLS next?

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Aron Johannsson’s time at Werder Bremen is all but finished, as the 26-year-old American-born, Icelandic-raised striker is expected to leave the club this summer after 22 months with Die Werderaner.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

Having failed to make much of an impact during his second season in the Bundesliga, following a few promising days early in the fall of 2015, the German press stated on Thursday, in no uncertain terms, “Aron Johannsson is leaving the northern club” — quotes from Kicker (translation courtesy of Google Translate):

In addition, Aron Johannsson is leaving the northern club. The US boy was not able to get through the hard competition in the storm, claimed more time, which can hardly be guaranteed in the next season. The fact that Baumann is already talking about finding a meaningful solution with the striker in the summer can be interpreted as follows: Johannsson will leave Werder.

Since various bits and pieces are lost in the above translation, allow us to offer a translation of the translation: the “hard competition in the storm” refers to the three or four strikers presently ahead of him in the pecking order. Johannsson fell down the depth chart due in large part to a hip injury which cost him the final seven months of last season.

Johannsson was recently quoted as saying, “It’s not my desire to leave, but at the end of the day it’s important that I play. I love football, but I need to play to be happy.”

[ MORE: John Brooks hip injury is worrying ahead of World Cup qualifiers ]

So, what’s next for Johannsson?

He can probably forget about a move to a top-division team in any of Europe’s premier leagues (England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France). A move back to Holland, where he starred at AZ Alkmaar (39 goals in 81 games) before moving to Bremen, would make sense if his goal is to stay in Europe at all costs. Another strong season (just a half, even) could earn him another shot with a first-division side roughly the size of Bremen.

Then, there’s MLS, which Johannsson’s been linked with before, and has publicly expressed a desire to join one day. As a current U.S. national team player, a move to MLS would mean a trip through the league’s allocation order for Johannsson. As of this posting, the Houston Dynamo hold the no. 1 spot in the allocation order, with Columbus Crew SC, San Jose Earthquakes, Minnesota United and Orlando City SC rounding out the next five.

[ WATCH: If you haven’t Darlington Nagbe’s latest golazo ]

Any team in MLS could land Johannsson by acquiring the top spot in the allocation order, via trade, and agreeing (what would almost certainly be) a Designated Player contract with him.

At the age of 26, Johannsson will likely feel there is still something left for him to accomplish in Europe. A strong showing in this summer’s Gold Cup (he’s a perfect candidate for Bruce Arena’s “B-team”) could open plenty of eyes — and doors. Money talks, though, just as the opportunity to be the face of the franchise and score a boatload of goals in MLS might also do.