Club: Toronto FC (MLS)
It wasn’t exactly a great summer for the United States men’s national team, and the organization as a whole has looked sketchy for quite some time. If those in charge want turn the boat around, they are going to need their best midfielder and one of the squad’s leaders, Michael Bradley, to step up in the upcoming qualification cycle for the 2018 World Cup.
This summer, Bradley was at his usual post in the heart of the USMNT side, but during the Copa America, he failed to garner much positive attention for his play. However, as he tries to turn his struggles around, the central midfielder can rely on a wealth of footballing knowledge which has come from his lengthy professional career, despite still being on the good side of 30.
Hailing from New Jersey, Michael astonishingly was able to become a professional at just 16 years old, singing with his closest MLS club, the New York/New Jersey Metro Stars, who Bob was coaching at the time. Michael was selected in the fourth round of the 2004 MLS Superdraft, and after not seeing a minute in his first season, he appeared in 30 games in the 2005 campaign.
His youth and talent caught the eye of many, but it was still surprising when Bradley became the youngest ever MLS player sold, with Dutch side Heerenveen snatching up the promising prospect. In the Netherlands, Bradley started to blossom, and despite being just 20 years old, was earning constant playing time at a solid European side, something few Yanks have been able to accomplish.
Bigger and brighter achievements were on the way as well, as Bradley made the switch to Germany for Borussia Monchengladbach, with whom he appeared 81 times and scored 11 goals in three years. After a failed loan at Aston Villa, however, Bradley and Gladbach parted ways, and the American joined Italian side Chievo Verona.
It might have been a downgrade at the time, but after another impressive campaign in 2011-12, in which he appeared in 35 Serie A games, Bradley
He’s been one of the club's best players and biggest stars since joining, but his impact has at times failed to transfer to the national team. There’s no doubt that Bradley was integral in the 2010 World Cup, when he was still stationed in Europe, but since, he has failed to muster up noteworthy performances in big games. That is surely the 28 year old's biggest criticism to date, and one that he needs to shake off.
He’s certainly capable of doing so. Bradley has earned 121 caps for the USMNT, which is good for seventh all time, and with the midfielder still having a few good years left in him and the current hold on the captain’s armband, that number is sure to rise. It is very rare that Bradley misses an important qualifier or any game in a major tournament, as while his prowess is needed, so is his experience.
But with the notion that Bradley isn’t a big-time player, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched for Klinsmann, or a new USMNT coach, to start tinkering with the midfield and potentially displacing the stalwart. That still seems like it is a ways away, but a competitor like Bradley is certainly not going to want to give up his spot any sooner than he must.