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.)
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