This piece by Serie A and Roma expert Eric Giardini
This is the move USMNT fans have been waiting for.
With this move to Roma, Michael Bradley is taking a significant step forward in his career that should ultimately pay dividends at the international level as well.
With his stint at Chievo, Bradley proved that he was able to play at the Serie A level and it was no wonder that the man the Italian media dubbed “General Bradley” would have a number of suitors this summer.
Roma was able to put together a more attractive offer for the 24-year-old than other clubs around the peninsula, and apparently overseas, and Bradley will be wearing the skintight Kappa jersey next year and Roma ownership gets the American player it wanted.
However, don’t be fooled that Bradley’s signing was just a publicity stunt as a way to tap into American fans.
Will it do that? Absolutely.
However, if Roma’s sole purpose was to sign an American just to sign an American, they would gone for someone like Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan – a player more familiar to the casual American soccer fan. In Bradley, Roma gets its American AND a player that has shown he can excel in Serie A.
“I want to make it clear that his (Bradley) capture is not a marketing ploy…Bradley is a pragmatic player, one sure of himself, who knows how to play and knows how to win,” said sporting director Walter Sabatini, who has shown in the past he has an eye for talent (see Javier Pastore). Word is that new Roma manager Zdenek Zeman handpicked Bradley to fit into his new system and this should get USMNT fans excited.
Zeman is renowned for all-out attacking soccer that will only help Bradley at the international level in Klinsmann’s system.
He runs a high-paced, high-intensity 4-3-3 system that should see Bradley get minutes along side all-world midfielder Daniele De Rossi with Fernando Gago’s loan from Real Madrid not being extended.
With De Rossi playing more “defensive” (or about as defensive as Zeman’s system allows), Bradley will be able to crash the box and score goals.
In Zeman’s own words, “Whenever we attack, all three forwards have to be in the penalty area while two of the three midfielders come forward as well. That way the opponent is pinned back. Then you put the ball in the box, and because you have more men, you have more chances of scoring.”
Those USMNT fans constantly drooling over Bradley’s 18-goal season with Heerenveen should be ready for a comparable goal total. I’m not saying he’s going to score 18 goals this year, but Zeman’s system allows midfielders to score double digit goals easily. With De Rossi not being with camp in its initial phase to recover from his EURO 2012 run, this should allow Bradley the opportunity to get valuable minutes in with the midfield to show the coaching staff what he can do and show he deserves a spot next to De Rossi when he returns.
Playing in this system helps Bradley in other areas.
Zeman’s clubs are constantly known for being more fit their opponents – which is necessary when you play at their pace. This will help Bradley on the international level as it’ll help his fitness (although that’s never really been an issue with him).
Also, the system is based on player movement and passing the ball to where the player should be, not necessarily where a player is. Again, another asset that Klinsmann must be excited about. Look at his system in action with Pescara. Look how quickly the ball is moved and how fast and in shape players have to be. This was run at the Serie B level. Imagine it with players like Maarten Stekelenburg, Nicholas Burdisso, Daniele De Rossi, Michael Bradley, Bojan, and Francesco Totti. It’s going to be glorious and Bradley must be eager to get out there and be a part of it.
Lastly, this move helps Bradley in terms of off-the-field preparation and pressures. While he was expected to perform at Chievo, the pressure on him was nothing like it’ll be at Roma. If he thinks going to Guatemala for a World Cup Qualifier will be tough, wait for his first Derby della Capitale. He is going to a club where European qualification will be expected and the supporters will let it be known if they are not happy. How Bradley copes with this pressure at the club level will prove invaluable with the National Team as he is now beginning to be seen as a leader on the side.
In conclusion, this is a great move for Roma who get a fantastic player with a smart buy and a great move for Bradley who is now playing at the biggest club out of all the USMNT players. I’m hoping to see him at Fenway Park as Roma takes on Liverpool later this month and I’m expecting a big ovation for him. For anyone now tempted to follow Roma, great. Welcome aboard. However, it won’t be easy and it’ll be painful at times…like being a Timbers fan.
And please, if you are going to get a Roma Bradley jersey, order a size up. We all thank you in advance.