Examining Michael Bradley’s move to Roma; what it means

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The news came as little surprise Sunday; Michael Bradley, easily the top man among the current U.S. central midfield mix, completed his $4.5 million transfer to Roma. Here’s what the move means:

A great place to be

Bradley now finds himself in a great spot. Roma isn’t one of the big Italian hoagies, but it’s not far. Call it a good sized Italian beef sandwich. The last five years Roma has finished 7th, 6th, 2nd, 6th and 2nd. That’s damn solid Serie A work.

Roma performs at the Stadio Olimpico, Italy’s second largest venue with a capacity of 72,000, second Italian fiddle only the fabled San Siro. So it’s an ambitious club, not blessed with the history or resources of AC Milan, Juventus, etc., but hardly miles behind.

In the sweet spot, career-wise

Having signed a four-year deal, the 24-year-old is in a great spot, career-wise. He’ll be 27 going into the next important transfer window in 2015 (with a year left on his deal, a.k.a. the sell-off zone). If the U.S. midfielder keeps developing and does his part to assist the Giallorossi cause (no reason to believe he won’t), Bradley’s next move would be to a true European heavyweight. Consider that Clint Dempsey got himself into a similar position – but at age 29. Two years younger would look even more attractive.

Impact on the U.S. national team scene

Bradley excelled in 2011-12 Serie A matters at smaller Chievo, and his body of work with the U.S. national team is Exhibit A of his steady improvement. A year ago Bradley was a solid international caliber midfielder and a steady contributor to the U.S. program (and finally, mercifully, shutting up the last holdouts among the know-nothing nepotism set, who claimed his U.S. spot was all about his father being the coach).

In the year since, Bradley has kicked it all up a notch. A big notch. He’s an essential wheel in the U.S. midfield machine, versatile enough to hold any role, capable in some, a difference-maker and game-breaker in others. He’s the team’s best passer, a steady scorer out of midfield, a highly professional leader and probably the most important U.S. man this side of Tim Howard and perhaps Clint Dempsey.

Point is, his move to Roma will only enhance the product in a U.S. shirt. Being surrounded by better players at Roma should allow Bradley to add further polish and a layer of steely sophistication that he might not have reached in Verona. Plus, Roma may not be AC or Inter in terms of European accomplishment, but it’s no stranger to Champions League play. He’s got a chance to learn on (and potentially shine on) a bigger European element – and that’s yet another level of development now within reach.

I hope to have a little more later today on Bradley’s transfer price, and what it means to another U.S. international who would like to be on the move. 

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.

Modric urges humility after big win, stunning goal (video)

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There are few teams who’ve looked as strong as Croatia at the World Cup in Russia.

[ RECAP: Argentina 0-3 Croatia ]

Zlatko Dalic’s men now have a pair of shutout wins against decent competition, topping Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend before hammering Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.

The nature of those performances will have many, us included, debating just how far Croatia can run in this tournament. Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is hoping his team doesn’t do the same.

Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” Modric said. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

Modric noted that Willy Caballero‘s howler “was a shot in the arm,” but added that they had played a “perfect game.”

That’s true. And while so much focus will be on Messi’s struggles, don’t sleep on the terrific performance of Vatreni. 

Modric also seemed to bristle when asked about shutting down Messi.

“I don’t want to talk about other players. We are happy with our own performance. We wanted to cut out Messi receiving the ball because he is the most dangerous player.”