What if new TFC man Michael Bradley had remained at Roma?

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The reflexive attitude in so many corners seems to be that Bradley’s soccer skills and acumen will suffer for his move in Major League Soccer. But is that really the case?

It’s an important question since Bradley is, beyond question, the most important man in the U.S. mix as World Cup 2014 in Brazil creeps ever closer. (If you don’t agree, then you haven’t paid attention to the United States team without and without its top midfield passer and organizer — and “top” by a long, long way.)

There’s a reasonable argument that his move out of Roma and into MLS is the best possible thing for Bradley in the short term – and therefore the best possible thing for the United States national team ahead of its big summer trip into Brazil.

There is no question that Roma and Serie A represent a higher level than Major League Soccer. That’s not a knock on MLS, just a fact.

But that doesn’t matter much if Bradley is barely playing at the Stadio Olimpico. And he isn’t. The U.S. midfielder had five starts in the fall for second place Roma. What’s more, the prospect for increased playing time for Rudi Garcia’s club were getting worse, not better.

Roughly speaking, Garcia had four midfielders for his three spots in the team’s preferred 4-3-3 formation. Bradley was clearly Garcia’s fourth option. That’s not a terrible spot to be in … if someone gets hurt or even if the team hits a bad run of form. But things were all healthy and happy for Garcia’s galloping club.

And then …

The Serie A club went and got Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan on loan from Cagliari. So all of the sudden Bradley was looking at a role of fifth man in a three-man rotation. Yuk.

Not to mention the confidence blow attached to Roma’s new acquisition from Belgium (with the option to buy, by the way).

All of you that wanted to see Bradley remain at Roma … how would that help the U.S. national team escape its date with the Group of Death? To have Bradley languishing on the bench at the Stadio Olimpico … let’s not pretend try to put a good spin on that one, eh?

To be sharp, Bradley is better off playing, not sitting – even if it’s in a league of lesser quality. At Toronto, he’ll not only be an automatic selection, he’s expected to be a leader, the “keyest” of key men around BMO Field. For a $10 million transfer price, that’s certainly a reasonable expectation, and it’s yet another step in Bradley’s ongoing development.

Beginning in mid-March, Bradley will feature weekly for Toronto FC. And depending on when Jurgen Klinsmann gathers the U.S. group for pre-World Cup camp, Bradley might even sneak in a big match or two in the Amway Canadian Cup.

Toronto faces Vancouver in an important two-leg semifinal series: the first leg is May 7 in Toronto, with the return leg set for a week later in Vancouver. Maybe that’s not a biggie in your mind, but for the long-suffering faithful around Exhibition Place, it is a big deal. (Not to mention the spot in CONCACAF Champions League on the line.)

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

(MORE: On U.S. player destination debates, all these conversations are different)

(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)

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

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A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

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After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”

World Cup qualifiers: Wales in trouble; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear of Ukraine and three above Iceland midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.