Eric Giardini writing from SF for TSG, finally
When we last met, I was on a whirlwind trip to Boston to see Roma and Liverpool play in a friendly at Fenway Park – a game of note as it saw Michael Bradley score his first goal in a Roma jersey. With the pro-American crowd serenading Bradley with “U-S-A” chants, this very well could have been the highlight of Bradley’s tenure with Roma thus far as since that game, things has been, well…rough.
Six matches into the 2012/2013 Serie A campaign see Roma floundering under new manager Zdenek Zeman, as the capital club sit 10th and have just as many points at this juncture as they did under Zeman’s heavily criticized predecessor Luis Enrique. Roma has just one win in a game that they’ve actually played (the club was awarded the victory over Cagliari when the match was called over safety concerns) and things are getting dire as the club that was once touted as Juventus’ only real title contenders look more like sheep in wolf’s clothing. Zeman appears to be more concerned with preserving his aura as the defender of all that is just and good in soccer, while simultaneously having a go at anyone who has had any affiliation with Juventus (look it up, it’s a long history), instead of adjusting his tactics to come out on top where it matters most – the field. While “Zemanlandia,” the term of endearment bestowed upon his swashbuckling, attacking style of play, has been responsible for an impressive 3-1 victory away over Inter, it has also seen the two goal collapse at home to Bologna to lose 3-2 and an awful 4-1 loss to Juventus.
The question you may be asking at this point is “Well, what does this have to do with Michael Bradley?” The answer thus far is, well, it’s unknown.
Bradley has featured just once this season for Roma where he played the entire match in a season-opening 2-2 draw with Catania in the Stadio Olimpico. By all accounts it was an average performance punctuated by setting up the game-tying goal in the 91st minute. Since then, Bradley has not featured for Roma, or the USMNT, after picking up a thigh injury that has kept him out for almost 5 weeks. (He did not make the bench for the trip to Turin on September 29 but I’m more inclined to believe this had more to do with the birth of his first child on the 30th than his health.) He has, however, resumed training with the full squad and returned to the starting lineup this past weekend in a 2-0 victory over Atalanta.
The next question you may have is how the Roma midfield had gotten on without Bradley. It’s been a mixed bag of results. Injuries to other starting midfielders Daniele De Rossi (who has returned to playing) and Miralem Pjanic (who is still out) during this time has produced a revolving door of players see time in the midfield with none of them really cementing a claim to overtake Bradley’s role. Panagiotis Tachtsidis, who has started each game that Bradley has been out, has not shown the same skill he did during the preseason and has actually been subbed off around the 60th minute in Roma’s last two matches.