Monday, January 28, 2008

Yank Abroad: Michael Bradley not Moving to the EPL (yet)

Over the weekend, word trickled out (well, how would you describe a blurb in the Mirror?) that Everton is perhaps making a last-minute move for Michael Bradley. Sunderland was also said to be interested. It looks like those rumors have since been scuttled, with Bradley electing to stay at Heereneveen for the time being. However, for those who follow the U.S. Men’s National Team, the 20-year-old Bradley is a big reason to be optimistic about the future of American footy.
[Warning: This post is nothing but fawning over an American player. There is no sarcasm or jokes herein.]

Photo: Andy Mead/Icon SMI

Michael Bradley is a sturdy, poised, playmaking central midfielder with plenty of talent. Best of all, he also seems to be full of ambition, focus and drive. This is somewhat to be expected because Bradley’s father is, after all, Bob Bradley, coach of the national team. (Say what you want about Bob Bradley, but he has instilled a sense of professionalism to the U.S. team that was sorely missing under Bruce Arena.)

As noted, Michael Bradley is currently playing for Heerenveen in the Dutch League, where he's been since moving from the then-Metro Stars in 2005. He missed his first season abroad with a foot injury, but he’s made up for lost time recently. It is only halfway through the current season, and with 11 league goals, Bradley has already beaten Eric(a) Wynalda and Brian McBride’s record for most goals in a season by an American in a top-flight European team.

Bradley v. Kaka

It therefore comes as no surprise that EPL teams have shown an interest in signing Bradley. I would expect a move in the summer, especially if Bradley has a strong showing in the World Cup Qualifiers (shouldn't be too hard when the U.S. has to play either Barbados or Dominica in the first round). For my money, Everton would be an excellent destination for Bradley. David Moyes has shown the ability to get his players to raise their game to another level. Blackburn and Sunderland are also said to be tracking Bradley.

Photo: Sky Sports

There is a debate among us UF-sters about whether American players are better off playing at lower-level English teams or at top-flight European squads (we all seem to agree that staying in the MLS is the worst option). For me, all that matters is that the player is getting good experience and growing in confidence and ability. This seems to have happened with Bradley's move to the Dutch League, and it may soon be time for him to move to fresh challenges. As his current club coach said:

"He is ready though for the step to a top club. Bradley has a great mentality; he will always make it. Just as I was convinced that Klaas-Jan (Huntelaar) would make it at Ajax, I am almost certain that he will make it elsewhere."

Indeed, Bradley is one of the few American players who seems ready to rise to such lofty expectations.

More on the Interwebs:
SI feature
US Soccer Global Blog (including podcast interview)
Yanks Abroad obvious ht for the title of this post

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