Michael Bradley: Trying To Reclaim MB90 Status

Bulletin July 2012: Michael Bradley to Roma.

MB90 with a Gatorade and “smile” circa a DCU Reserves vs. Metrostars match in October 2005.

May Update:

What’s changed since we did this piece below in March:

• The Resurgence of Stan Petrov at Aston Villa

The skinny: After coming back from injury, the captain increasingly found the pitch for Villa as they navigated away from relegation waters. Petrov’s calmness on the ball and “been through it before” resume certainly contributed to his name being on the first eleven team sheet more often than not through the first half of 2011.

Whereas it though Petrov might be encouraged to move on from Villa at year’s end, it now looks like a sure bet that he will finish out his contract, training his days at The Barn.

• Today, Nigel Reo Coker and Robert Pires were released by Villa.

The skinny: Pires was done-for well before today at Villa. He rarely contributed through the 2nd half of the campaign.

As for Reo-Coker, it appears that the demand for his services is paramount to what Villa was willing to ante up to procure his services. Very interesting indeed and it moves up Michael Bradley now to 3rd or 4th in the pecking order, depending on how one evaluates it.

The depth chart in the central midfield may look like this: 1) Jean Makoun 2) Stan Petrov 3) Fabian Delph (for more on Delph see below) 4) Michael Bradley

Delph, a star in the making for England, will certainly be given more chances in 2011.

• Ashely Young and Stuart Downing are both “plotting their escapes” from Villa.

The skinny: Ashley Young is rumored to sign for Manchester United (oh my) on Monday. While Stuart Downing this past week did an abrupt you turn and said that he would play out his current contract with the club.

Downing’s future is more of a mystery, while Reo Coker sees assured of moving to a stronger side, be it in the EPL or elsewhere.

The impact here? How will Villa uses the funds secured from moving Ashley Young. With Mark Albrighton in reserve, they may not opt for another winger and it’s well known that Houllier loves his central midfielders.

• Borussia Moenchengladbach escape relegation on Wednesday with a win over Bochum.

The skinny: Bradley of course went on loan from “Bo Munchen” in January to Villa. Many different reasons why the transfer ensued–American media reports say he put in for a transfer while German reports are mixed.

Either way Gladbach can stomach the return of Bradley from a roster cost perspective in 2011-2012, though (thanks to @amfid on Twitter for the next part where I originally erred), Gladbach Sports Director Max Eberl said in an interview that there is no way back for Bradley.

Additionally, Havard Nordtveit (20) and  Roman Neustädter (23) doing well in the dual holding roles and Gladback reportedly seeking a new player for this position in young Matthias Zimmermann (2009 U-17 euro champion with Germany) a talent from 2nd Bundesliga team KSC set to join Gladbach in the center.

From fans that have cascaded through TSG, the sentiment seems to be that they want Bradley to transfer and get a decent price for him.

Going into June:

Going into June, Michael Bradley will be a key figure for the US in their pursuit of Gold Cup victory. Incredulously, Bradley has played nearly as many international minutes thus far in 2011 as he has club minutes.

A strong showing in the Gold Cup would help Bradley, but most of the audience for the tourney is here in the States, not abroad.

Best bet for 23-year-old Bradley? Back to the Bundesliga or slotting in with a mid-to-bottom table side EPL side if Villa declines to make the move for him, perhaps a Wigan. Roberto Martinez obviously did the American World Cup coverage for ESPN and saw quite a bit of the Bob Bradley’s son.

Wild card? Let me toss out Everton, long with a storied connection to Americans as well as rumors of Jack Rodwell moving on. Bradley would be a fine complement there to the possession, less-defensive oriented hubs of Fellaini and Arteta.

Our bet right now? Villa makes a short term (2 years?) play for his services. With Reo-Coker out and Bradley already familiar with the system, Bradley would seem like a good bet in the midfield committee for the Villians. Villa has until May 31st to decide if they want to accept Gladbach’s transfer terms.

That said, it sure looks like Gerard Houllier is jettisoning Americans at the club with Brad Friedel rumored out to Liverpool and other realms, with Brad Guzan likely moving to a Championship side and with Eric Lichaj saying he wants to stay at Leeds.

Below from March 6th…


Always determined: Michael Bradley (photo credit: Matt Mathai)

Much has been made in the American media about the growth, and recent plight, of US international Michael Bradley.

A polarizing figure to say the least.

2007 USMNT camp: Tough guys..

A wavy, but abundantly positive-trending, career has seen Bradley selected into MLS…by his father (present USMNT coach Bob Bradley, then NY-NJ MetroStars manager) as a precocious and brooding 16-year-old. Bradley soon after took to Europe and ended up scoring more goals in a season overseas than any American, 16 league goals for Eredivisie side SC Heerenveen in 2007-08 (of course, this record is currently threatened by Giuseppi Rossi in La Liga who notched his 15th for Villarreal in their stunning 3-1 loss to Atletico Madrid this past Saturday.)

Upon his Dutch success, a big move to Bundesliga side Borussia Moechengladbach (Bo’Munchen) was in the offing and Bradley became a fixture in their line-up during his time there (despite some clashes with the coaches).

Bradley’s fixture status even extends to the USMNT national team where he played all possible minutes for the US in South Africa. This after being one of three players through the 2010 World Cup qualifying to play 1300 minutes or more for the States (the others were Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra). Bradley and company played 12% more time than anyone else including stalwarts Oguchi Onyewu (injured in the final game of qualifying) and Tim Howard.

The case in point?

Michael Bradley is resilient, oft-not-injuried, critical component of any team he plays on and his pedigree shows an upward moving level to his play.

That notion makes Bradley’s next few months at his club Aston Villa all the more compelling.

Having been transferred to Gerard Houllier’s Aston Villa side in the January window–until this past Wednesday in the FA Cup–Bradley had not played more than 45 minutes or started for club or country in 2011, astounding for a player who seems more and more effective the faster and faster his pitch odometer revolves.

American media loves to use and re-use the statement that wherever he has went, Bradley has eventually earned starter’s minutes and made an impact.

Man, Barry Bannan is like Deco-tiny, huh? MB90 being a bad Citizen this past Wednesday.

However, while it appears Bradley will stick at Villa Park–his current playing time hiccup more a matter of game fitness than ability in this writer’s opinion–the battle for consistent and exclusive starter’s minutes may be less about how he plays and more about the dynamics outside of his control, specifically player contracts and manager tinkering.

The crowded Villa centerfield has no less than eight players that could theoretically play for the 1st team or have played for it.

Let’s take a look at each of these players, dissect their situation and round out with Junior Bradley’s playtime prognostication:

First, let’s dismiss two of these players outright:

The Non-Contenders

It’s a good thing Ireland isn’t there, or else with fellow dome waxer MB90 it could get awfully confusing on the inside….

Stephen Ireland: The highly talented Irishman arrived at Villa Park with a bunch of quid in a swap for James “I wish I never met Steve Cherundolo” Milner under the reign of previous manager Martin O’Neill. Once Houllier arrived, Ireland appeared to fall out of favor and both sides mutually agreed to part ways for the rest of the season as Ireland join the Tynesiders on loan through the end of the campaign. Said Houllier at the time, “Once a player wants to go, he goes.”

Ireland is out of contract this year and his chance of re-upping at Villa I would put at no higher than 0%.

Isiaih Osbourne: England youth international Isiaih Osbourne appears to be moving on as well as Summer 2011 dawns. The 23-year-old is currently on-loan at Sheffield Wednesday–where they’ve been pleased with his play–but the same can’t be said for the Mothership.

Osbourne–who was arrested, but not charged for suspicion to rob in 2009 further muddling his shot at Villa– has been loaned out four times by the senior side.

Despite being 6’2”, 23-years-old and clearly having some talent, Osbourne appears destined to move on in the Summer when his contract expires as well.


That leaves six, for now. Let’s handicap the rest, starting with may appear the lesser of the threats:

Possible, But Not Probable:

Is this Acorn on the go?

Stan Petrov: Highly odd to put Petrov, Villa’s captain, as the least competition for those under contract and at Villa Park to Bradley, but this is where he belongs.

In our opinion, Petrov, who prefers the nickname “Stan” to his given name of “Stiliyan,” appears to be on his way out of Villa Park at the end of the campaign despite having a contract through 2012.

The Bulgarian international has been battling injuries this game and, at 31 and with a bulk of international games under his belt as well, doesn’t have the same motor and resilience that he once did.

Recently, Houllier stated that Petrov wouldn’t be guaranteed his starting spot. If he stays beyond the ’10-’11 season, Petrov will likely be called on as a spot starter and reserve from the 18, and less starting eleven material.

He’s also, despite being captain, slipped tremendously in fan appreciation.

Jonathan Hogg: On loan to Portsmouth through the end of the year, Hogg has got a few things going for him in presenting competition to MB90.

He’s English (see: Home Grown Rule).

He’s 23-years-old.

And he’s signed through 2013…a contract that was signed after Houllier’s arrival in December of 2010.

Hogg’s been in the Villa system since his early teens and, unless he heads out on loan again, would appear to be at least in the picture for a team sheet penciling-in in ’11-’12.

Barry Bannan: Update: (After this piece published last night, it was reported and is now official that Barry Bannan has went on loan to Leeds through the end of the campaign.)

The dimunitive Bannan plays the role of playmaker centrally, but he can also play out wide. Amazingly, Houllier has invoked the name of, yes, Xavi when discussing Bannan’s ability to impact the game.

Bannan, a Scottish international, is discounted, like Michael Bradley, in the Home Grown Rule count. England’s home-grown rule only applies to those of nationality coming through the English and Welsh systems.

Bannan is familiar with English league play having been loaned out the past two years to strong, junior sides in Derby and Blackpool. Bannan, however, has stated that he would be reluctant to go out on loan again and would prefer to prove his mettle and play into the first team Villians.

Finally, the 20-year-old recently inked a new deal to keep him at Villa Park through 2014.


The final three Villians present the major foil to Bradley getting exclusive starter minutes at Villa

I’m Either Your Best Friend (and Pitch Partner) or Your Worst Enemy:

Delph, here for England…

Fabian Delph: A surprise candidate perhaps to usurp MB90’s 90′. The English international is an athletic player with similar attributes to Bradley in the center of the pitch.

Delph started this past weekend’s 3-2 loss at Bolton, some through it would be a Nigel Reo-Coker-Michael Bradley pairing.

(Note: Given that the biggest component of Houllier’s game plan against the Wanderers was speed of play, there was no way that Bradley was going to start after a) starting a few days earlier and b) showed he tired early in the 2nd half of that start)

The athletic Delph–who’s been described as having future “captain potential” for the Three Lions–was probably doing a little celebrating up until Saturday’s loss, just a day earlier the 21-year-old inked a contract making him a Villian through 2015.

One more note on Delph, Houllier recently deployed the youngster at left back, meaning he likely doesn’t see him as the first name in central midfield at this point.

Jean Makoun: Gerard Houllier’s first procurement of this past transfer campaign, Makoun got himself a straight red in competition in early February and will shortly return to league play.

Houllier got to see the 27-year-old Makoun early on his career when the Cameroonian was manning the defensive central midfield slot for Lille in 2007. Houllier was the manager of Lyon at the time and Makoun played twice versus Houllier’s gones. (Makoun, of coursed, transferred to Lyon after the 2006-07 season.

If you’ve seen Makoun play, then you see a player who Houllier probably considers the bedrock of his midfield for at least the immediate future due to his steely defense and precision passing.

Makoun’s as close to a perennial starter–when he’s not suspended–in our book.

Will Reo-Coker make it through his contract squabble?

Nigel Reo Coker: The 26-year-old Reo-Coker is finally hitting his stride in the Premiership after some maturity challenges early in his career at West Ham.

Reo-Coker has been streaking since Houllier took over and the gaffer acknowledged as much by making him the temporary team captain when the aforementioned Petrov went down for a spell.

Here’s the rub.

Reo-Coker is yet to sign a contact extension at Villa–his present one is up this year–despite an affirming statement by Houllier in October that he wanted the Londoner to remain on. Recently, Houllier had the following to say about the Englishman, “He is a ball winner and gets forward when he can. I like his discipline; I like his commitment and his aggression. I said to him and to his agent that we will have an assessment from the end of February to the beginning of March. But I know also there are clubs after him because he is a free agent.”

Yet no news just yet on the contract; on the attribute sign sounds very Bradley-like.


The conclusion:

A congested midfield at Villa, but not one that Bradley shouldn’t find his place in. On present ability combined with growth, Bradley is undoubtedly in a top group composed of three (Makoun, Reo-Coker, Delph) so he should not want for playing time once he’s fit. On game experience that group , dropping Delph, drops to two.

With the Acorns stockpiling youngster and Bradley coming with both that and experience, Bradley’s player profile seems ideal for the new guard coming in in Birmingham.

Will it continue to be a walk in the Park?

Now whether Houllier continues to employ a 4-man midfield and anoints two players as outright starters is another thing though. At his past appointments, Houllier has done quite a bit of committee in the midfield as he understands the toll and mileage necessary to play the central midfield role.

On the balance and team sheets is where it gets more complicated for Villa and may have a bigger impact Bradley. With just over a season and a half before UEFA’s financial fair play rules go into effect (the conclusion of the 2012-13 season), Villa needs to start being very wary of their coffers as the team has taken a loss of anwhere to $£20-$40 million over the past few years. (UEFA fair play rules dictate by the end of the ’12-’13 campaign all teams books must be balanced. For more on Villa’s finances, see here.)

In central midfield the Villians are already firmly committed to five players (Petrov, Bannan, Hogg, Makoun & Delph) through the 2012 season.

While loans and transfers can be found–you have to expect Villa to encourage a Petrov transfer over the next 6-12 months and, perhaps, for Bannan to be loaned against his wishes–that still a lot of movement necessary to accommodate Bradley.

Next is Reo-Coker’s contract situation as was discussed above. Will he sign on? Is Houllier and Villa’s statements that they want to keep him merely a smokescreen to get him to play strong through the end of the campaign? If so, much like their brethren Manchester United to the north did with a certain Carlos Tevez, it’s working masterfully.

And finally to Michael Bradley.

With Reo-Coker as the fulcrum here, Bradley is either competing in a four man midfield with less dollars to go around if Reo-Coker re-ups or the American, with Reo-Coker relocating, has a decidedly rosier Villa situation if he’s primarily competing with only one veteran in Makoun and Reo-Coker goes.

But there’s also the question of salary and the appetite for Bradley on the market this summer. Can he command more than Villa can afford? What’s his appetite for the best contract? Will he want to go somewhere where he can be assured of his name being in the starting eleven without question?

Perhaps one option for Junior–who has commented he wants to play in the Premiership? Across the road at Brum brother Birmingham City.

If you remember, Bradley was earmarked for a transfer to St. Andrew’s back in 2008. However, that transfer was contingent on the Blues staying up in the Barclays. They didn’t and off Michael went to Bo’Munchen and the Land of Dunkel.

Birmingham could use the steel in the middle of the field with Barry Ferguson and Lee Bowyer sunsetting their careers shortly and the Blues are in the black when it comes to the balance sheet.

It seems for perhaps the 1st time in his career, Michael Bradley’s playing time and location will be more dependent on circumstance rather than ability.

More resources on Michael Bradley here:

TSG discusses Michael Bradley and more on the American Soccer Show this past Sunday.

Houllier discusses his Manchester City team selection and comments on Junior’s practice form.

A February 2011 dialogue with Michael Bradley by SI.com

Pure, or poor if you will, humor from 2010 on the ten best places for Michael Bradley to play. (Apparently Valencia isn’t it La Liga–who knew!–and Louis Van Gaal may be compelled to guarantee MB90 playing time.)

93 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/06 at 10:31 PM

    Good piece, and valid point about the fitness issue. One question–do Rossi’s goals scored in league play count toward the American record since he’s an Italian international? No Rossi bashing intended–just don’t know how the stat is figured.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/06 at 10:33 PM

      I didn’t know either, but I felt obliged to point it out Jake.


      • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/07 at 8:05 AM

        Fair enough. The kid has been phenomenal.


        • Posted by Jake See on 2011/03/08 at 7:47 AM

          ROSSI’S GOALS DO NOT COUNT! He lost the right to claim the title of “Most Goals Scored Overseas than any American” when he flipped off the country he grew up in for 14 years of his life. Rossi is an Italian International, not an American one. END OF DISCUSSION


  2. Posted by Jennifer on 2011/03/07 at 4:32 AM

    Great article. I haven’t been too worried about MB not getting playing time right now. He hadn’t been playing before he left Germany and has moved to a faster league and needs game fitness. Now if he’s not getting good minutes in about a month’s time, then some worry/questions should arise.

    Side note: Love the ‘James “I wish I never met Steve Cherundolo” Milner’ comment.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/07 at 6:38 AM

      Side note back: We’re trying to get a Bundesliga correspondent to cover Clark, Cherundolo, Zimmerman….and yes, even Beasley.


      • Posted by Soccernst on 2011/03/07 at 1:23 PM

        More Bundesliga1&2 coverage would be awesome.

        Lot’s to keep track of in Germany: DMB, Edson Buddle, Timothy Chandler, Steve Cherundolo, Rico Clark, Amaechi Igwe, Jared Jeffrey, Alfredo Morales, Luis Robles, Daniel Williams, Bobby Wood, David Yelldell, Preston Zimmerman. Not to mention the Joe Gyau, Charles Renken connection to Hoffenheim. Oh yeah, and uh that defender who starts for Dortmund. Doh!


        • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/07 at 2:26 PM

          I second this. Timothy Chandler is an extremely interesting prospect that honestly I hadn’t heard of until recently. Dolo is having a great season (it was nice to see him shut down Ribery this weekend) and hopefully he’ll be playing Champions League next year. And I hear lots of things about Jeffrey, Wood, Gyau, and Renken but honestly have never seen any of them play at any level. Don’t remind me about Subotic! Ouch- thanks Thomas Rongen again!


        • Posted by dth on 2011/03/07 at 2:41 PM

          Well, three of the four play youth levels in Germany…so not exactly easy to see them, unless you live there.

          Wood has been limited to cameos so far to 1860; presumably at some point they’ll give him an expanded chance, right?


      • Posted by Jennifer on 2011/03/07 at 2:25 PM

        Good to see. I’ve been watching the Hannover games for years, but I’ve been following following the league more closely this year with Hannover doing so well.


  3. Posted by JohnC on 2011/03/07 at 7:04 AM

    Good article, pretty in-depth and a lot of things I did not realize. A focus on the up-coming fair pay rule is pretty neat to read about. However, I think you should proof-read this article again because the errors are numerous and it made some paragraphs very difficult to read.

    I hope Bradley can secure some PT before the season is up. I like the Birmingham idea but I would rather see Bradley on a contender even if Villa isn’t playing like one this season.


  4. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/03/07 at 7:37 AM

    WRT the Home Grown Rule, I strongly *believe* [not 100% sure] that the player in question just has to be ‘registered with the FA for 36 months by his 21st birthday’ to be considered Home Grown. The players’ “nationality” is irrelevant if they meet this criteria.

    [Which is why Arsenal’s foreign legion isn’t an issue].


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/03/07 at 7:44 AM

      PS: the reality of a non-EU player being considered Home Grown is therefore a lot slimmer just because securing the paperwork, in theory, is harder [than established international].


    • Posted by dth on 2011/03/07 at 8:07 AM

      Yeah, I think if you just stay in the club’s academy for a while, you’re a home-grown–I believe, for example, Cesc Fabregas counts as a home grown player.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/03/07 at 8:15 AM

      Here you go:



      • Posted by dth on 2011/03/07 at 8:59 AM

        While the rule has been sold as being good for English talent, I think it might just accelerate the trend of poaching other league’s youth talent and bringing them in early.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/03/07 at 9:11 AM

          Nothing will change at the big clubs with great global scouting networks. But I think other clubs will try to replicate this, plus it makes LT economic sense.


  5. Posted by Dougs on 2011/03/07 at 8:00 AM

    Fantastic analysis. Thank for this article. It was an interesting and informative read.


  6. Posted by bunkelUSA on 2011/03/07 at 8:06 AM

    Awesome piece, a great break down of the MB situation. Personally, I feel more confident in his abilities just seeing what a bad-a** he looks like in that photo.


  7. Posted by dth on 2011/03/07 at 8:09 AM

    Very relevant news: Barry Bannan to Leeds United on loan (rest of season): http://www.avfc.co.uk/page/NewsDetail/0,,10265~2309984,00.html

    Apparently Houllier really likes ’em to enjoy Leeds.


  8. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/03/07 at 8:22 AM

    Also, hasn’t Downing been playing centrally recently?


    • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/07 at 9:00 AM

      Ive seen him play centrally a couple of times but I don’t think that’s been the norm. Against Bolton he was out wide I think, as Houllier likes to play Young up top nowadays. The emergence of Albrighton on the wing–who I think is excellent–will further crowd the midfield though, so very possibly another obstacle for MB.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/03/07 at 9:23 AM

        I think the issue for Bradley is getting the initial chance, perhaps getting a couple / few consecutive games. Matt correctly mentioned his match fitness, but then it becomes a circular argument, doesn’t it? How does he get match fit if he doesn’t get any games?

        The best thing for Bradley would be for Aston Villa to pull away from the relegation zone – yes, they’re in 13th, but points-wise, they’re only 3 points away. Once Villa are safe[r], I would like to think that Houllier would have more of a propensity to give Bradley that chance. Plus, Bradley is only on a 6 month loan, so why bring him in if you’re not going to give him a fair crack?


        • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/07 at 11:10 AM

          All good points, but the jury’s still out for me on Houllier doing the sensible thing. I hope he gets the PT.


        • Posted by Tux on 2011/03/07 at 11:53 AM

          Yeah, the word “sensible” has never really been one to describe Houllier.


  9. Posted by dude on 2011/03/07 at 9:44 AM

    For me, it isn’t so much a question of whether he can play for Aston Villa (I think, given some faith, he could). The question is, does he partner with anyone on the National team well enough to warrant automatic selection?

    He isn’t really a pure defensive midfielder (he likes going forward too much), and he isn’t a good enough passer to be a playmaker. Right now, Edu and Holden look like they’d be a beastly pairing.


    • Jones-Holden would be better than Edu-Holden. Edu isn’t very good.


      • Posted by SteveM11 on 2011/03/07 at 11:28 AM


        Are you on Crack? Edu isn’t very good?! He is a starter and scorer with Rangers. Not to flame out here, but I am assuming you are a Celtic fan, as in the rest of the world, being a starter on one of the world’s best teams, and scoring goals for said team, usually equals “very good”.


        • I’m in no way a Celtic fan. But Edu plays well in the SPL, a league whose standard is below that of MLS, Old Firm excepted. He doesn’t play as well in the Champions League, where he is typically given little responsibility. He doesn’t play well at faster speeds of play. Comparing Edu to the standards set by the rest of the central midfield pool for the USMNT, he is not very good.


        • If, on the other hand, your standard is “all soccer players in the world today,” then Edu is in around the 99.9th percentile. But that’s not a very useful standard to use in most discussions. I’ve chosen to use Edu’s peers on the USMNT as a baseline. I think that’s a fair standard. By that standard, Jones, Bradley and Holden are well above Edu, who is about on par with Ricardo Clark.


        • Posted by SteveM11 on 2011/03/07 at 11:55 AM


          Bro, no way on earth is the MLS superior to the SPL, and there is not an MLS team playing that could consistently beat the Old Firm. And no, I don’t mean all soccer players in the world. Of course, I mean professionals.

          We might not agree whether MB90 or Edu is better, but to say “is not very good” says to me, you don’t know what the hell your talking about.


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/07 at 12:07 PM

            I’m sure this debate can be handled in a non personal way.

            For my two cents, SPL level of play still trumps MLS, but I may not say the same thing in two years.

            It’s hard to argue that a team like the Chicago Fire as presently constructed or Chivas could really compete in the SPL right now.


        • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/07 at 12:42 PM

          Anyone who says Maurice Edu is on par with Ricardo Clark is on crack. Did you watch the World Cup?

          February 2009- Columbus, OH WCQ- While standing in the supporters section I observe Ricardo Clark being brought on as a defensive substitution late in the game. I comment after watching him for 5 minutes- he is going to cost the USA a big game some day

          June 2010- vs. England, World Cup- Minutes before the game starts I see Clark penciled in as starter. I comment that I will never forgive Bob Bradley. A few minutes later Clark plays a large part in allowing the first England goal.

          June 2010- vs. Ghana, World Cup- I react in complete disbelief as I see that Clark is stated to start after Edu’s solid form during the World Cup. A few minutes later Clark gets pwned by Ghana’s Mr. Nasty and the rest is history.

          I have been an Edu supporter since Toronto FC. The only negative with Edu is the fact that he seems a bit fragile. He is a solid defensive player, is decent in distribution, has a wicked shot, and has a nose for finding junk goals in big situations. Ricardo Clark has never offered anything positive in his USMNT career other than that freak shot vs. Trinidad- and if you remember he was about to be substituted for his poor play.

          I know it wasn’t Bradley’s fault that Holden wasn’t at full fitness (apparently- I have to believe that to not go crazy), and Jones wasn’t there, but there was no reason for Clark to be on the pitch. Holden and Bradley are the two going forward, but Edu should definitely be in consideration and I don’t want Bradley starting vs. Argentina until he starts getting minutes.


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/07 at 12:49 PM

            No need to get personal here. To everyone at TSG, you can make a compelling case always without being personal.

            Keep TSG chill…no flaming. :>



        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/03/07 at 12:45 PM

          I am not sure what people are basing this on because how often do people get to watch Edu? I think that the SPL is better quality than MLS *presently* but who knows what the future will hold?

          To be fair, in the CL, Rangers are usually the underdog and definitely play a low risk and ‘controlled’ game. Just because he may be unspectacular, you have to also think about what tactical instructions he was given.


        • Posted by dth on 2011/03/07 at 1:11 PM

          Well then…aren’t I controversial?

          I do believe most of the MLS plays a better game than most of the SPL. It’s hard for most people to judge, I think, because most of the people watch Old Firm games and not much else. How many people watch, say, Hibs-Hearts or something? I have a few times, and it’s a standard of play that, in my opinion, is below the MLS.

          @Crow: I did watch the World Cup. Clark didn’t have a good one-and-a-half games, of course. Fortunately for Ricardo Clark, that’s about 1/100th of his career. Aside from that, Clark has excellent range and is a really good ball-winner. His possession skills are weak. Meanwhile, Edu’s possession skills are OK and his range and ball-winning skills weak. To me, that’s about equal: for some tasks you want Clark and for some you want Edu. In fact, I don’t think Bradley playing Clark against Ghana was the huge blunder people have made it out to be. It turned out to be a disaster, but Bob Bradley doesn’t own a time machine. At the beginning of the game, I’m guessing Bradley looked at the Ghana midfield, with its powerful players in Boateng and Asamoah, and decided he wanted some power and some range to counter that. Once that decision made, Clark is the obvious choice. This didn’t turn out well because Bradley didn’t place enough importance on possession, formationally or personnel-wise: had Bradley played a five-man midfield, substituting Feilhaber for Findley, I suspect no one would care today that Clark started ahead of Edu.

          @GeorgeCross: while I can’t criticize Edu for performing the role he’s been assigned to do, I can criticize Edu for not being able to play a more varied, responsible role. He frequently looks out of his depth when he does. Since the U.S. hasn’t been a bunkering team since vs. Spain ’09, and since Bradley has shown no inclination since then to transform the team into one, Edu isn’t particularly useful–in my judgment–for the US’s purposes. Fortunately for Bradley, he has three options in Bradley, Jones, and Holden that offer more in possession, more going forward, and more in defense.


        • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/07 at 1:27 PM

          I saw the response and was wondering how I was “personal”. Then i saw I agreed with the crack statement, woops. LOL

          Actually it is nothing personal towards any readers of TSG, it is just that I react strongly to things at times, and also the fact that I honestly never will forgive Bob Bradley and Ricardo Clark for blowing the easiest walk to the semifinals in World Cup history. Despite everything the team went through, and all the potential key players who couldn’t contribute- Holden, Jones, Davies, Onyewu (not fit), the Nats should have made it to the semis.

          That’s why I reacted so strongly to the Clark/Edu comment.


        • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/07 at 1:29 PM

          Matthew, you have to understand- I’m from the Northeast where everyone is combative/up tight. I can’t wait to move out west in a few months. I will miss the Union, though.


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/07 at 1:44 PM

            I’m just a little careful these days as our community is growing and…here’s the thing.. I love reading the comments.

            And–perhaps my motivations are incorrect–but if people come to TSG for the stories as well as the comments then that’s better for the overall communication.

            But it’s hard to read the comments if they refer (and not even in a malicious way) to a previous commenter.

            I’m originally from NY and sometimes I want to do the equivalent of ringing someone’s neck in the commentary. That will happen from time to time and it’s natural.

            But I really want to start taking some of the commentary and making it it’s own piece and tweeitng it out and such….

            Hence my focus on it.


        • Posted by dth on 2011/03/07 at 1:42 PM

          I’m tired of hearing we should have made the semis. We had a really good chance to make the semis, a better chance than we’ll have for the foreseeable future, but that != “should make semis.”

          Let’s look at Ghana: Gyan, Boateng, Ayew. These are excellent players, doing things in Europe. They’re probably, on balance, a little better than our best three players. I think Ghana and the U.S. are about equal; a 50-50 shot is accurate.

          Let’s look at Uruguay: Forlan, Cavani, and Suarez are all dramatically better than any player on the U.S. squad.

          How can anyone honestly look at that and say, “You know what? Definitely should’ve made the semis.” It’s not being objective at all.


        • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/07 at 2:01 PM

          @Matthew understood. Yes, I am very glad that the TSG comment boards are not the same as let’s say- Yahoo’s. LOL. It is nice to have a coherent discussion/debate. I’ll try better in the future to keep my personality in check to help promote such an environment.

          @dth I agree with you. I shouldn’t have used the word “should.” However, how many times will the Yanks have a 50/50 chance in a round of 16/quarterfinal game. That is going to be a once in a generation opportunity until the US improves their program, which I hope they do.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/03/07 at 3:27 PM

          To be fair, you haven’t played a top top team that dominates possession since that Spain game!

          My point about Edu is not that I think he’s a world class holding midfielder, just that some of the criticism is harsh. Sort of reminds me of the stick Deschamps used to get in the 90s [not that I am comparing the two in any way, but the general criticism levied at him due to his “limitations”]. I know that you are a massive Bradley fan, but it’s not exactly as if he has that ability to play that through-an-eye-of-a-needle-defense-splitting-pass. Maybe I am being a little unfair to talk about the midweek game [given said lack of sharpness], but he got done many times by an ageing Viera simply because he didn’t have the feet or technical ability to play in a tight space [which is why I prefer Holden]… For what it’s worth, I do feel that the tandem of Bradley and Holden will be the starting centre mids at WC14.


        • Posted by dth on 2011/03/07 at 5:15 PM

          Well, I wouldn’t describe myself as a massive Bradley fan. I just think he comes into unwarranted criticism due to his being the coach’s son: people call him an all (only) effort player so that they can denigrate the U.S.’s entire approach to the game. Which does need modification, of course; and of course Bradley’s game isn’t perfect. It’s just that Bradley’s game has more nuance than people give him credit for. (For example, re: the through ball criticism: at the end of his time at Gladbach, they’d play Bradley in the hole and he had several nice through balls. Clearly, not the best part of his game, and clearly also not something I’d want to see him do consistently…but he’s capable of doing it.)

          As to Edu: I have no problem with the simple-pass-playing midfielder, like a Busquets or Mikel Obi, for example. In fact, I like having him around and it’s someone the U.S. needs in their midfield. It’s just that against opposition that actively closes players down and denies their opponents space and time, Edu tends to struggle in a way Holden and Bradley don’t. We don’t see this because Edu either plays the SPL, in which teams respecting Rangers’ talent bunker against them (giving Edu space and time), or the CL, in which Rangers bunker (making Edu’s possession skills against top-flight opposition irrelevant.) It’s possible, of course, that Edu could learn these skills were he to move to a more demanding league, and if that were to happen I’d be the first guy on the Edu bandwagon. But Edu isn’t in that league, and he doesn’t face those demands, and so I have to rate his current readiness to face a team that has a top-class speed of play as low. Therefore I’d prefer the holding midfield positions to be composed of two of the three of Holden, Jones and Bradley.


      • Posted by Tux on 2011/03/07 at 11:50 AM

        But he’s 24. Jones is 29, and injury prone. I’m not saying Jones is better or worse *right now*…but four years down the road, my money’s on Edu to be the better (and healthier) player.


        • Well, sure. If your priority is 2014 that might very well happen; I’m just talking about right now.

          That said, I think several younger players will bypass Edu by 2014 anyway. It’s my guess he won’t make the World Cup 2014 roster.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/03/07 at 10:38 AM

      But the strength and depth of the US midfield means that the manager doesn’t have to be picking players who are short of match fitness or aren’t playing regularly for their club. That is a good thing.


      • Posted by John on 2011/03/07 at 12:18 PM

        ^ this.

        I learned the error of my ways with regards to the Charlie Davies saga.

        Bob doesn’t need to be picking people who aren’t playing and this includes people like Altidore et all.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/07 at 12:42 PM

          It is funny that after Bradley making it public in the 1st cycle that he would play players who are playing with their 1st team regardless of league, the whole Oguchi Onyewu situation happened.

          It will be interesting to see how team selection occurs here in the 2nd cycle as Bob claims he’s learned stuff.

          I do hope that it means going with less veterans in the early going here and continually developing players and chemistry that will improve things later in the cycle.


  10. Posted by scweeb on 2011/03/07 at 10:24 AM

    Yea i think right now its Jones>Holden>MB>Edu


    • Posted by Rich B on 2011/03/07 at 12:55 PM

      I’ll disagree. Jones hasn’t impressed me much at Blackburn. To me, based on current form and match fitness I’d have to go Holden>MB90>Jones>Edu. MB90 is easily the best of the bunch when match fit to me. Jones is good but I have a VERY difficult getting excited about that foul machine. Edu is really good in stretches and barely visible at other times.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/07 at 5:38 PM

        Agree here on Jones. I’ve now watched him two matches and as I commented in the preview Friday, either he’s lost a step or he’s not back to full fitness yet.

        He used to just tank people, now it’s almost like he’s struggling to make tackles and oppose to closing down with more in the…er…tank.


        • If as you say Holden>MB>Jones>Edu…

          then if you started MB and Holden at CM, wouldn’t Jones be one of the best candidates to start at LM?
          Jones at LM, adding width and dynamism?

          Something like a fluid 4-2-3-1/ 4-4-1-1…


          I would actually prefer to see this trialed:


          It seems more and more that fans are beginning to think the CM should be predicated around Holden, now and in the future. Can not wait for the next few weeks.


  11. Posted by scweeb on 2011/03/07 at 10:25 AM

    Also on a side note how are Zimmerman and Lichaj doing?


  12. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/07 at 12:52 PM


    Did anyone see this???!! How could he and Bob coexist- although I don’t see him taking the position. Isn’t that the responsibilities Klinnsmann wanted?


  13. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/07 at 12:53 PM

    Every time I see that pic of MB90 at the Meadowlands I laugh bc I got a picture almost exactly like it with my SLR. Matt must have been right where I was. Obviously, his pic is a little sharper/higher quality.


  14. English fan here. I was very impressed with Bradley in the WC. Hadn’t seen much of him before. He looked like a box-to-box central midfielder, good engine, eye for a goal. Not necessarily the most creative, but a proper midfielder. I think this article has it right, Villa’s midfield is not the strongest so he should get opportunities, but it’s a difficult situation for him because his new team has been poor this season and is playing under pressure.

    Regarding the SPL / MLS debate. The Old Firm is so far above the other teams in that league it’s impossible to have an objective view on the overall standard. I’d be pretty surprised if MLS teams couldn’t defeat the likes of St Mirren and Inverness.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/07 at 5:43 PM

      Hi Michael., article writer here. Thanks for the comments.

      A note here on the World Cup–and ironically you are seeing this right now with Stu at Bolton–the USMNT system was largely geared around two, maybe three people Landon, Clint and Michael.

      It’s no coincidence that Bradley’s best moments were typically when the US went to a 5-set midfield and he was allowed a lot more free reign, at least on the defensive end. In that respect, that Bradley–but like others–is a difference maker selecting where to make himself avaialble.

      You got us here at TSG on St. Mirren. They’re terrible. They’re best player is a never-was limey (kidding) who didn’t play above League One I believe.



      • That’s interesting to know about the USMNT. It looked like your team was set up to get the best out its talents. That’s what international football is about, and it’s what England consistently struggle to do i.e. picking the best team doesn’t always mean picking the best XI individuals.

        Look at the Lampard/Gerrard pairing. For years they were easily the two best English CMs, but were they the best pairing for England? Results and performances suggest not.


  15. Posted by Brian on 2011/03/07 at 2:53 PM

    I feel like Bradley has the ability to work his way into the starting line up.. It just may take some time which is not surprising considering it is his first time in the Premier League. In time he will prosper and become an important part of AV


  16. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/07 at 3:08 PM

    Ouch!!! I believe I’ve been called out on Twitter by TSG!!! I believe thats in reference to my Ricardo Clark/Ghana comment. Its not fun being called out like that, but I’ll stand by my view that if Edu was playing it wouldn’t have happened. One thing good about the Holden/Jones/Bradley/Edu….. Spector debate is that there is no room for Clark.

    I agree with all the Colombian imports helping MLS. I can’t wait to see Valdes and Mondragon for the Union.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/07 at 5:37 PM

      Not calling you…just using the material from the comment section to TSG’s benefit. :>


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/08 at 8:56 AM

      Now that you’ve calmed down a bit to the TSG pace you’re starting to make more and more sense! Good stuff.


  17. Posted by Andy_4Lakes on 2011/03/07 at 3:21 PM

    /exit topic

    This site is the best.

    And I love the comment section. As good as the articles are, the input that is added in the comment section is just as entertaining and informative.

    /return to topic


    • Posted by John on 2011/03/07 at 3:25 PM

      [mock outrage]

      How dare you sir! I think the articles and input are BETTER than entertaining and informative.. they are illuminating and deceptively erotic! Just like being dipped in a small vat of Asamoah Gyan’s tears!

      How about that tagline!

      The Shin Guardian: Deceptively Erotic….



      • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/07 at 5:46 PM

        Hate Google –oh, hope they’re not “Reading” this…but John I was just about to make the tagline this week what you suggest above and then I got worried that by having it in the publication title Google would ding TSG’s quality score and think it was a porn site.

        So…at least I thought about it.


        • Posted by Kevin on 2011/03/07 at 7:40 PM

          What?! It’s not a porn site?! Boy do I feel stupid…

          who cares what google thinks anyway just make sure to advertise on facebook and you’ll be fine… at least thats how I found TSG… 2-3 years ago… it feels like I found this gem of a blog last week…


  18. Posted by Berniebernier on 2011/03/07 at 5:36 PM

    Now here is the part that makes me feel like the “get off of my lawn you young kids” old man even though I just hit 30….

    One of the things that drew me to the TSG was the comments. I liked how I could ask a question and get a thoughtful response, if I suggested something that someone disagreed with I would get a thoughtful non-attacking retort, etc.

    Other websites *cough*SBI*cough* have message boards that aren’t real discussions but full of people yelling and screaming at each other which is not an enjoyable read.


  19. […] one Villa player to another, The Shin Guardian does a good job breaking down Michael Bradley’s competition for playing time in the central midfield.  Matthew posted that […]


  20. Best article I’ve seen on this site since I’ve started reading it – very thorough and informative. I think Bradley has the potential to succeed in the EPL and continue to be a major contributor to the USA, regardless of the lack of playing time he’s garnered from Villa up to now. I also have to point out how awesome it is that the USA has enough central midfielders to be sparking passionate discussion (argument?) amongst fans as to who should start. If only we can amass this sort of depth on either side of the midfield…

    And for the record, my vote goes to a Jones-Bradley pairing in the center of midfield. Holden comes a close third and it would be interesting to see him swapped in for either player.

    One last thing – Matt, don’t worry about the site grammar too much. It’s very readable. And for an article like this, I think most fans would rather have you put your time into solid research, thought, and commentary – as it’s clear you did here. Keep up the good work.


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/08 at 9:09 AM

      Great article and I always appreciate the community policing approach that keeps this as my number one soccer site. Thanks to matt for a well-thought out approach to what will surely be an interesting issue over the next 12 months. I am a huge USMNT fan and my concern with MB’s game has always been more about his auto inclusion in a role (CDM) that doesn’t necessarily make the team better. This has tended to breed a Gerrard-like lack of discipline into his game where his tendency to play poorly in defensive positioning has been particularly harmful and he doesn’t have to compete for that role.
      I think the AV experience may be good for him just to get a dose of competition that hopefully carries over to his father in his team selection. I think he can be a very good and strong player for the US if his approach to the game can mature.


  21. Posted by Richard on 2011/03/10 at 5:18 AM

    Please proof read next time, that was difficult to read at times!

    Good summary though, many thanks for your efforts.


  22. […] Villa, so I’m sure he was the most disappointed of all.  There’s an excellent write-up in The Shin Guardian from last week on MB 90 and his quest to fit in at Villa Park—I think you should read it. These things take time but his form is a concern. As for the man with […]


  23. Posted by corky on 2011/04/04 at 2:19 PM

    Checked this article out due to your Twitter feed.

    If you read Timothy Abraham’s Twitter feed (local Aston Villa beat reporter) — twitter.com/TimothyAbraham — he’s pretty negative about Bradley. It’s interesting. Bradley sounds out of sorts.


  24. […] Here’s the background–if you haven’t read it yet–on Michael Bradley and the Villa midfield. […]


  25. […] Note: This TSG piece on Michael Bradley–vetted by Abraham–is a requisite read […]


  26. […] conflict, as we spoke about it our previous Bradley pieces (here and here) is Nigel Reo Coker. What’s the easiest way to rattle an agent who is playing […]


  27. Posted by Len on 2011/05/27 at 10:47 AM

    You may have already seen this, but Villa just let go of a handful of midfielders – including one Nigel Reo-Coker. Lookin’ good for Sweatpants Jr.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/05/27 at 11:07 AM

      Tweeted about it earlier. Negotiations will continue with NRC though for Villa

      And I wouldn’t say “looking good” for Bradley yet, but “looking better”

      Right now he has Makoun, Petrov, Fabian Delph all “ahead” of him. It will likely come down to the transfer price there.

      Remember Villa still has Barry Bannan they *could* bring back in the fold as well (though that seems less likely).


      • Posted by Jared on 2011/05/27 at 12:01 PM

        It all depends on how much Gladbach want for MBDNP. There was a quote from the president of the club stating that they wanted something like 15 million euros for him. Now of course part of that is just talk but I can’t see Villa spending that kind of money on their 4th central midfielder when you also consider that he’s not homegrown (which will come into play more and more).

        I don’t see him coming back if Houllier is in charge because he clearly doesn’t rate him. I’d also be surprised if Reo-Coker finds a move to a bigger club. At this point other clubs have known that Reo-Coker was available and I haven’t heard a lot of chatter about him going anywhere else.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/05/27 at 12:05 PM

          I’d be hard-pressed to see Gladbach getting 15M for him AND I would be hard-pressed to believe they think they actually can. That’s just media speak to me.

          Article speaks to homegrown as well. :>


    • Posted by Len on 2011/05/27 at 11:08 AM

      yup….didn’t see your twitter post. Still exciting nonetheless.


  28. Posted by dth on 2011/05/27 at 12:16 PM

    If I were shopping on the transfer market for a winger, I’d think strongly about Marco Reus of Gladbach as an affordable option. He’s very good and pretty young.


    • Posted by Olaf on 2011/05/27 at 12:46 PM

      Gladbach has rejected a 15 mio euro offer from wolfsburg. Reus has said in several interviews that he did not want to leave the club at this time.


  29. Posted by Damon on 2011/05/27 at 12:26 PM

    You really should just make a new post and link back to your previous one. Doing it this way just makes everything confusing.


  30. Posted by Tabare on 2011/05/28 at 1:57 PM

    Michael Bradley is a fine young player. I wish him all the success in the world. He’s a battler. The timing of his trailing runs is often very good.

    But he’s 23. He doesn’t have particularly good technique. He’s not a particularly good passer. He has yet to show anything special in terms of organizing and orchestrating an offense.

    My conclusion — my opinion, my bet, call it what you will — is that Michael Bradley going to plateau somewhere close to where he is currently.

    He’ll be a solid, competent professional footballer. That’s pretty amazing all things considered. But as a fan of the US national team, I’m wishing for something a bit more in the center of the park.


  31. […] for USMNT fans, given his importance in the national team midfield. The Shin Guardian has provided extensive coverage of Bradley’s playing-time woes with Villa; suffice it to say that while Bradley will be playing in England next season, how much he will play […]


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