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 …
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