Something forgotten in the Michael Bradley destination debate; every one of these conversations is different

6 Comments

So many of these conversations on Michael Bradley and his move into MLS get one element very, very wrong:

This conversation about U.S. players’ career destinations, about what’s best for the individual, cannot possibly be covered with one big Yankee Doodle blanket. Every players’ situation is different – in many cases wildly so.

Just in terms of what it does to enlarge these guys’ soccer brains and to improve the technical quality of their soccer feet, these are essentially different conversations. What’s good for Brek Shea may not best for Jozy Altidore, which may not be best for DaMarcus Beasley, which may not be best for Clint Dempsey or for Bradley.

Even when we get past the “do they or don’t they need to go overseas?” we then have a completely different conversation ahead about the landing zone of choice. Because, again, what’s best for This Guy won’t always be best for That Guy.

To the point here, in Bradley’s case: I wouldn’t worry. He’s fine making an MLS return at age 26.

Unlike some of the lesser experienced Americans, Bradley has plenty of stamps on his passport, all kinds of “been there, done that” on his resume. He crossed the Atlantic for his first European contract almost eight years ago. Eight years is an entire career for some people!

Jurgen Klinsmann essentially has two reasons for wanting young MLS men to go try soccer life overseas. One is to push themselves in a more competitive environment, to fight for their place in the depth chart against the most competition possible. That pressure extracts the best from them, the way pressure extracts the most flavor from coffee beans.

But he also says these players will benefit by seeing soccer in a different culture, where the embittered, local baker will not sell you bread on a Monday after a loss. Along with that, Klinsmann wants the payers working under a variety of training methods, expanding their soccer brain through different coaching philosophies and playing style, etc.

Welp, Bradley has certainly checked all those boxes, hasn’t he?

Bradley has a highly diversified soccer CV – and now he brings all that knowledge back into MLS. It’s not knowledge he is likely to leave back in Europe; he’ll pack it up and bring it to North America.

(MORE: U.S. Soccer fans critical of Michael Bradley’s move to MLS: get over yourselves!)

You think Bradley is going to forget the rigid, organizational defensive structure of Italian soccer? You think he’s going to forget how tough, mentally and physically, you must be to survive the sharp elbows of the Bundesliga? You think he’s going to forget the training in the Dutch Eredivisie, the importance of a highly technical skill base?

No. And no. And no!

Last point here: Michael Bradley is a smart, smart fellow. His life is mostly all about soccer.

If he adjudges that this move is the best thing for the right balance of life concerns (family, wife, etc., as we talked about earlier) and soccer concerns, you can bet that he’s given it a long, hard think. And odds are, he’s gotten it right, because he is a smart fellow who knows how to work his way around an issue in an organized, thoughtful way.

Believe it, Bradley is not going suddenly become a terrible soccer player. His skills and speed of thought will not fall off the table. I promise that.

In fact, there is an argument to be made that he will benefit, soccer-wise, in the short term for this move. Read more about that a little later today at ProSoccerTalk …

(MORE: Where Bradley’s signing falls in all-time MLS significance)

(MORE: What Toronto’s starting lineup might look like with Defoe, Bradley)

(MORE: Why Bradley is worth the money for Toronto FC)

Milivojevic free kick, Sako deflection lead Palace past WBA

AP Photo/Kin Cheung
Leave a comment

Goals from Luka Milivojevic and Bakary Sako led Crystal Palace to a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the third place game of the PL Asia Trophy.

Palace had lost 2-0 to Liverpool in its semifinal, while West Brom fell to Leicester City in penalty kicks after trading goals over 90 minutes.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Milivojevic’s free kick, won by Wilfried Zaha, was super. Whipped in with force and a wicked curl, Baggies keeper Ben Foster didn’t have a chance to reach it with his dive.

Sako created his goal with a darting move off a long dribble, though it needed a pair of deflections to get behind Foster.

The Baggies had their chances, and Julian Speroni made an outstanding save on Matty Phillips late in the match.

STREAM LIVE: Liverpool-Leicester duel for PL Asia Trophy

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Goals from Bakary Sako and Luka Milivojevic spearheaded Crystal Palace’s 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the PL Asia Trophy third place game, and now Liverpool and Leicester City tangle for the title.

The final will be staged at 8:30 a.m. ET, when Liverpool will hope to build on a 2-0 semifinal win paced by Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke goals.

[ LIVE: Stream PL Asia Trophy here ]  

West Brom lost to Leicester City in its semifinal when youngster Sam Field missed the side’s seventh attempt in penalty kicks. Jay Rodriguez scored the Baggies goal in regulation of a 1-1 draw.

Here are the lineups for Leicester City and Liverpool:

Strootman loving life at Roma, aims to keep paying club back

Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kevin Strootman is in love with Roma.

The club, the city, the fans, name it: The relentless 27-year-old has renewed his commitment to AS Roma with a new contract, and understands how players like Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi devote their entire careers to i Lupi.

“It’s Rome,” Strootman exclaims, speaking ahead of the club’s second Stateside match of the International Champions Cup.

“You’re not going to leave easy. This is Rome. We all have the ambition to win something here, and to celebrate with the fans. Totti told us when he won the scudetto in 2001, there were parties for three months. If you win something here, it’s going to be really special. About the city you don’t even have to talk, it’s so beautiful you cannot compare it with anything else.”

[ MORE: FIFA’s Infantino in hot water ]

Yeah, the Eternal City is pretty nice, but it’s most celebrated football club is growing in magnitude, too. Roma’s finished second in Serie A three of the past four seasons, and last season came within four points of its first scudetto since the aforementioned win earlier this century.

Strootman was a massive part of the campaign, returning to the elite form displayed in his first season at the club and in previous campaigns with PSV Eindhoven. He scored six times with seven assists between Serie A and the UEFA Europa League, averaging 2.7 tackles per game, 1.7 interceptions, and 1.4 dribbles per Serie A contest.

That his reclamation of that status came after knee surgeries limited him to 18 matches over the previous two seasons was sweet (if nervy).

(Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)

“For me it was like such a relief, especially in the beginning you’d play a game and you’d be happy to play,” Strootman said. “If you won everyone was happy with the win, but I was just happy that I didn’t get injured again. The fitness coaches and technical staff did a great job. I played 50 games, we made the Champions League, and I signed a new contract. I was happy to pay them back on the pitch. I feel good.”

Payback is a theme in our talk with Strootman, who speaks glowingly of club chairman James Pallotta, the American businessman who stood by the midfielder during his injury struggles (NOTE: PST profiled Pallotta in depth last summer).

“He brought me here when he started the project, and he’s always supported me even during my injuries,” Strootman said. “He would call me, and was always there for me. I always told him, when I’m fit I want to pay you back with my play on the pitch. He’s like a president should be.”

It’ll be different from Strootman this season, and not just because of the changes to the Roma roster. Gone are Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger, Leandro Paredes, and retiring Francesco Totti. Arriving are Maxime Gonalons, Hector Moreno, and reports of bids for Riyad Mahrez and the impending arrival of Aleksandar Kolarov excite the fan base.

I Lupi are a club which has been on the precipice of greatness for some time. Now with the Champions League group stage and battles with not just Juve and Napoli but surging AC Milan and Inter Milan, Strootman says it’s time to stop talking big and start acting it out.

[ MORE: Vertonghen says Spurs need to raise game ]

“The last couple years we talked in the preseason about winning the scudetto, winning cups, but we have to show it on the pitch,” he said. “We still need some time, that’s normal, but we need to show on the pitch that we are hungry. We’re a young team with some experienced players. It’s a good mix. We have to show it from the first competition and game by game.”

Strootman also admitted, as many have, that American soccer continues to grow in renown around the Netherlands and Europe in general.

“I think it’s rising,” he said. “A lot more players from Holland are going over to MLS. I don’t see a lot of the games because they don’t show them in Italy. But when you’re here and see the friendly games against the big teams, the level is going up. MLS is getting higher and higher.”

Roma faces Spurs at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday before a July 30 battle with Juventus at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

2-year doping ban upheld for Finland, CSKA Moscow player

Epsilon/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a two-year ban for CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko for a positive test for cocaine.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

CAS says the ban imposed by UEFA was “appropriate” and dismissed the Finland international’s appeal.

[ MORE: Vertonghen says Spurs need to “level up” like rest of PL contenders ]

The ban will expire on Oct. 5, 2018, when Eremenko will be 31.

Eremenko tested positive after playing in a Champions League game for CSKA Moscow against Bayer Leverkusen last September. The 2-2 result was not affected despite Eremenko scoring CSKA’s second goal.

Born in Moscow, Eremenko grew up in Finland and has represented its national team 73 times.