JAMIE HILL - Thursday, October 6, 2011
After a rare absence from the US squad last month, Michael Bradley has returned to the national team fold.
Bradley, 24, was omitted from Klinsmann's squad for the September friendlies against Costa Rica and Belgium. The US national team manager decided to leave Bradley in Italy to complete his paperwork and wrap up loose ends after transferring from Borussia Mönchengladbach to Chievo Verona of Serie A.
Bradley made the most of his time off from national team duty, settling in Verona and quickly winning a place in Chievo's starting lineup. Now that he's established himself at his new club, he's pleased to rejoin the national team.
"It's always great to be back with the national team," Bradley told YA. "The spirit in camp is always good, guys enjoy being here, and guys enjoy spending time with each other."
Bradley has established himself as one of the USA's key players over the last cycle. Missing a starting lineup, to say nothing of an entire camp, is a somewhat unfamiliar experience.
"You never want to miss a game," said Bradley. "Still, in the long run it was important that I was able to get things sorted out in Italy and to make sure that paperwork went through and that things over there were all squared away."
Bradley's professional career has taken him on a world tour, even at relatively young age of 24. His journey has taken from from MLS to the Netherlands to Germany to England, back to Germany briefly and now to Italy. Now at his fifth club, Bradley is satisfied with his start.
"It's been a good change for me," opined Bradley. "I think that it's a really good league, it's a good club and I've been there for a good month, in training every day and now in the last stretch got myself a few games. We had only one point after two games, so to move ourselves up the table has been good."
Having completed his first month at Chievo, Bradley has had his first taste of Serie A and has had time to form his first impression of his new league.
"Soccer is a little bit different in every country," he stated. "Holland was different from Germany, Germany from England, and Italy is different from all of them. When you look at the league, what you see is that every team is tactically organized and very committed to doing what they have to do to give themselves a chance to win the game. The best teams have a good mix of skill and technical ability and attacking players."
Now at his fifth club since turning pro in 2004, Bradley has had the chance to see much of Europe thus far. The midfielder has relished this chance, but after a season of turmoil that included a sudden loan to Aston Villa, Bradley seems ready for a period of stability.
"All the experiences along the way are important," Bradley stated. "You pick things up, you learn things, it's important for your growth as a player and as a person. To have had different experiences in different countries dealing with different people and different cultures is good. On the other hand, when you find a place where you're comfortable and you fit in and the people at the club value what you are about as a player and a person, I'm not somebody who says ‘it's been a year, I've gotta move on to the next place.'"
Another aspect of life in a big league in Europe is the constant frenzy of media coverage. Many cities have multiple sports newspapers dedicated primarily to the sport of soccer and fan interest usually remains at a fevered pitch.
"They're crazy about football here," observed Bradley. "As a player, I think it's great. We all agree that soccer is growing in America, but to live in a country and to play in a country where they are crazy about their football, that's cool.
No two US camps are exactly the same. There is always an inflow and outflow of players, with changes in the squad due to injuries, form, and other factors. Bradley also commented on the return of a very familiar face, DaMarcus Beasley. The speedy winger has enjoyed a career renaissance since joining Puebla in Mexico, where he has been in excellent form.
"Every time [Beasley] comes in, he brings a good attitude, a smile, and a really good way about him," complimented Bradley. "He lifts the whole group when he comes in. He's been in really good form in Mexico and to have him back is great, not only for him but for the team. When you look at things, to have left-footed attacking players, that's a big help. I think he's proved when he's played for the national team, when's played in Europe and now in Mexico that he's a very good player."
With a collection of veterans like Beasley, Bradley, and many others and the introduction of fresh talent like Timothy Chandler, Brek Shea, and Juan Agudelo, the US will hope to take a step forward after a largely disappointing 2011.
The US will face Honduras on Saturday in Miami before traveling to Harrison, New Jersey on Tuesday to play the Ecuador national team.