Soccer….Family Style


Thoughts on Michael Bradley Coming to MLS
January 13, 2014, 5:44 pm
Filed under: International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags: , , ,

After watching Clint Dempsey and the frustrations he faced at Seattle Sounders, I can’t say I was all that thrilled to hear Michael Bradley was moving to Toronto FC. As much as I enjoy Seattle’s suffering on the club side, this year is one to focus on USMNT and making sure our boys have the best year possible, at least in my opinion.

Then my husband, affectionately known as , Mr Tanya, walked in from work with the opening line “I guess Bradley doesn’t even want to be on the same continent as dear old Dad” that I started to feel better. He has many interesting points on Bradley’s move and the state of MLS, and was kind enough to guest blog them here.

I had some initial doubts about the Bradley to TFC move but since I’ve had some more time to think I consider this a good thing for Bradley and the USMNT. Before you get all excited and pissed off thinking our best players should be playing at the best level and on the best teams possible let me have a chance to explain.

The World Cup is a special event. It is 3 games in a cloud of dust, or middle of a rain forest, as it were. It’s not a 10 month marathon like a European season. Anything can happen in a one-off game with everything on the line. Just look at what the US did in the 2009 Confederations Cup. They got killed in the first two games, did great in an elimination game against Egypt, and then took it to Spain for a shocking upset, and then Brazil for a half. I don’t believe the USMNT would finish above Spain or Brazil if they were playing club style long season but for 2 ½ games the USMNT was phenomenal.

That is what the World Cup is all about, single games where anything can happen. It is a fast paced, physical tournament. It is not a tournament for aging, slower players who need a game or two off to rest up here and there. The World Cup has become much more an athletic event over simply a pure skill tournament. I believe it changed during the 1994 WC in the US. The heat and travel requirements took an enormous toll on older teams. The speed of play has only increased since then, requiring the need to be in peak physical condition.

In order to be great in modern day World Cup games, players must be at their peak physically and mentally. That is what Klinsmann wants from his players. He wants all of the players to push themselves to be their best: play in the biggest leagues and play in the biggest games. But do not forget he wants them to PLAY in those games, not ride the bench and watch others do the playing. You can do that in front of a TV at home with a beer. Players always talk about being “game fit”. Practice on a top flight team is not a substitute for the mental and physical rigors of game speed and intensity. 

Klinsmann has always said that to get better, players need to be playing against the best, however, he also emphasizes if you are not playing regularly, you will not be selected for the USMNT. Period. There’s no buddy buddy old boys club favors of what you did for me last year, or acceptance that riding the bench for a great team is as valuable as game experience. That is not Klinsmann’s style and he has made it very clear to everyone: get playing time for your club, or you won’t be playing on the national team.

So back to Michael Bradley at TFC vs Any European Team. I don’t think there is any doubt that TFC has already pre-printed all of their game day programs with Bradley starting in the midfield. He is a starter and will likely play the full 90 in every game. I don’t see that kind of guarantee in any European team.

Mentally, it is very difficult for players at the top level to not be playing in every game. Doubt in their own ability and confidence can creep in, and wreak havoc on the most talented player. I want all of the US players playing with confidence and a bit of swagger. If that means being the best player on a slighter lower level team instead an occasional sub on a top flight side, I’ll take that.

Billed as a star on a team that’s trying to improve their position will put Bradley under pressure to succeed in every match. He will not have the refuge of playing a relegation team, every game in MLS will be important to TFC. MLS is a physical league, requiring hard work for the full 90 at every position on the field. He will get plenty of practice defending and will always have someone pressuring him when he has the ball. He will need to lead the team, start the attack and work back on defense at a fast pace, not unlike what he will face in Brazil.

I don’t think we will see Michael Bradley grow leaps and bounds as a soccer player in the next 5 months, nor would he whereever he was playing. With playing time every week, he should be able to avoid any backsliding in talent and fitness, which could happen if he stagnates on a European bench. USMNT doesn’t need a “better” Michael Bradley, we need Bradley at top fitness to keep doing what he’s done for the US for the last year. 

Long term, I hope Bradley has a fantastic World Cup, is courted by a bunch of European teams who show him the money, he moves again in 9 months, and becomes the greatest US player of all time and spends the rest of his playing career as a starter on a Champions League winning team. That would be great. Not very realistic, but great. The US just can’t afford to have him riding the pine this spring.

Now let’s focus on Jermaine Jones. I hope he likes barbecue, because it would be great to see him playing with a USMNT midfielder and a defender three short hours away in Kansas City.

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2 Comments so far
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I like your read on this Doug. I basically feel the same way. We are going to rely on both Michael and Clint to pull strings and lead. . . in different ways. More so for Michael. Landing in Toronto will give him the kind of leadership and match management experience he’s not going to get anywhere in Europe but which is exactly what we need from him on the USMNT. Is it Feb. 1st yet??

Comment by Patrick Finney

Oh, and JJ at SKC? I’d take that! He’d fit in nicely. (I still miss Espinoza 😦 )

Comment by Patrick Finney




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