One thing that was painfully clear during the last international break: The United States midfield just isn’t the same when Michael Bradley isn’t healthy. Right now, he’s the only guy in the five-man midfield mix capable of getting forward and contributing something beyond the middle third. The U.S. just isn’t as dangerous without him.
So you can forgive an ardent USMNT supporter for being on their own personal Bradley Watch, keeping an eye on the midfielder’s progress with Roma. It’s been over a month since the 25-year-old last appeared (Aug. 26, versus Catania), derailed by a thigh injury. Although he was in Roma’s team mid-week against Sampdoria, one report hinted there was little chance he would have played. “[O]nly to make up the numbers” is no euphemism for almost ready to go, which may explain why Bradley wasn’t in Roma’s squad to face Juventus on Saturday.
More concerning about the linked report is the allusion to a personal training program. That could allude to some extra rehab Bradley’s doing, but more likely, that’s code for somebody who’s still training away from the team (though we’ve heard otherwise). Maybe he’s the guy on the stationary bike, watching while the rest of the team’s doing their work. Perhaps he’s doing his own drills beyond that far goal while the guys are running their seven-on-sevens. Regardless, that would still put Bradley a couple of steps removed from availability.
And given each muscle strain is different, occasionally taking a unique course to health (for better or worse), is it time to start worrying about Bradley’s ability to make it back in time for the next international break? When you break it down, we’re probably well beyond that point.
The U.S. is back in action on Oct. 12 (at Antigua and Barbuda), but Jurgen Klinsmann will start picking players long before that. Calls are going to start going out soon, with most players knowing by the end of this week whether they’ll need to hop a flight home after their weekend matches.
Roma doesn’t play again until Sunday. Klinsmann might have to make a call on Bradley before then, one which could come down to how desperate the U.S. coach is to get Bradley back in.
With Bradley having only played 90 minutes this season, the decision may already be made. And with Antigua and Barbuda on the schedule ahead of Guatemala in Kansas City, you could argue Bradley’s not needed, particularly if he’s unlikely to be match fit.
Then again, when qualifying for The Hex is on the line, should Klinsmann take any chances?