When In Roma: Michael Bradley, Champion’s League Hunting

Gunning for the top… (photo credit: Matt Mathai)

This piece by Serie A and Roma expert Eric Giardini

Moving day….

This is the move USMNT fans have been waiting for.

With this move to Roma, Michael Bradley is taking a significant step forward in his career that should ultimately pay dividends at the international level as well.

With his stint at Chievo, Bradley proved that he was able to play at the Serie A level and it was no wonder that the man the Italian media dubbed “General Bradley” would have a number of suitors this summer.

Roma was able to put together a more attractive offer for the 24-year-old than other clubs around the peninsula, and apparently overseas, and Bradley will be wearing the skintight Kappa jersey next year and Roma ownership gets the American player it wanted.

However, don’t be fooled that Bradley’s signing was just a publicity stunt as a way to tap into American fans.

Will it do that? Absolutely.


However, if Roma’s sole purpose was to sign an American just to sign an American, they would gone for someone like Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan – a player more familiar to the casual American soccer fan. In Bradley, Roma gets its American AND a player that has shown he can excel in Serie A.

“I want to make it clear that his (Bradley) capture is not a marketing ploy…Bradley is a pragmatic player, one sure of himself, who knows how to play and knows how to win,” said sporting director Walter Sabatini, who has shown in the past he has an eye for talent (see Javier Pastore). Word is that new Roma manager Zdenek Zeman handpicked Bradley to fit into his new system and this should get USMNT fans excited.

Zeman is renowned for all-out attacking soccer that will only help Bradley at the international level in Klinsmann’s system.


He runs a high-paced, high-intensity 4-3-3 system that should see Bradley get minutes along side all-world midfielder Daniele De Rossi with Fernando Gago’s loan from Real Madrid not being extended.

With De Rossi playing more “defensive” (or about as defensive as Zeman’s system allows), Bradley will be able to crash the box and score goals.

In Zeman’s own words, “Whenever we attack, all three forwards have to be in the penalty area while two of the three midfielders come forward as well. That way the opponent is pinned back. Then you put the ball in the box, and because you have more men, you have more chances of scoring.”

Those USMNT fans constantly drooling over Bradley’s 18-goal season with Heerenveen should be ready for a comparable goal total. I’m not saying he’s going to score 18 goals this year, but Zeman’s system allows midfielders to score double digit goals easily. With De Rossi not being with camp in its initial phase to recover from his EURO 2012 run, this should allow Bradley the opportunity to get valuable minutes in with the midfield to show the coaching staff what he can do and show he deserves a spot next to De Rossi when he returns.

Playing in this system helps Bradley in other areas.

Zeman’s clubs are constantly known for being more fit their opponents – which is necessary when you play at their pace. This will help Bradley on the international level as it’ll help his fitness (although that’s never really been an issue with him).

Also, the system is based on player movement and passing the ball to where the player should be, not necessarily where a player is. Again, another asset that Klinsmann must be excited about. Look at his system in action with Pescara. Look how quickly the ball is moved and how fast and in shape players have to be.  This was run at the Serie B level. Imagine it with players like Maarten Stekelenburg, Nicholas Burdisso, Daniele De Rossi, Michael Bradley, Bojan, and Francesco Totti. It’s going to be glorious and Bradley must be eager to get out there and be a part of it.

This ain’t Central America: Derby della Capitale

Lastly, this move helps Bradley in terms of off-the-field preparation and pressures. While he was expected to perform at Chievo, the pressure on him was nothing like it’ll be at Roma. If he thinks going to Guatemala for a World Cup Qualifier will be tough, wait for his first Derby della Capitale. He is going to a club where European qualification will be expected and the supporters will let it be known if they are not happy. How Bradley copes with this pressure at the club level will prove invaluable with the National Team as he is now beginning to be seen as a leader on the side.

In conclusion, this is a great move for Roma who get a fantastic player with a smart buy and a great move for Bradley who is now playing at the biggest club out of all the USMNT players. I’m hoping to see him at Fenway Park as Roma takes on Liverpool later this month and I’m expecting a big ovation for him. For anyone now tempted to follow Roma, great. Welcome aboard. However, it won’t be easy and it’ll be painful at times…like being a Timbers fan.

And please, if you are going to get a Roma Bradley jersey, order a size up. We all thank you in advance.

31 responses to this post.

  1. […] Fan In You « Happy Independence Day When In Roma: Michael Bradley, Champion’s League Hunting […]


  2. Posted by Spiritof76 on 2012/07/05 at 11:04 PM

    Cheers! Thanks for the write-up.

    I’ve heard Roma’s system compared to Spain/Barca’s 4-6-0, which in their circumstances is a very attacking line-up. If you think its an apt comparison under Zeman, would you see Bradley playing something like the Busqets, Xavi, or Alonso role?

    May be an irrelevant question, as I haven’t watched Roma play at all. But, regardless, looking forward to cheering them on this year. Thanks again for the informative post.


    • Posted by EFG on 2012/07/06 at 3:38 AM

      Former Roma, and current Zenit St Petersburg, manager Luciano Spalletti pioneered the 4-6-0 formation in the mid-2000s and don’t let any Barca fans tell you otherwise!

      Last year’s squad under former Barca B manager Luis Enrique played a very Barca-like style which will not be the case under Zeman. Earlier this summer Zeman railed on the Barcelona/new Spanish style by saying the horizontal pass is “futile, as it is just loaning each other the ball. We must always try to do something that will have meaning.”

      Roma this year is going to be quick up the field with the ball constantly moving forward and into the box. While there it’s very likely that Roma will lead the league in goals scored, it’s just as likely that they’ll be among the leaders in goals allowed with this free-flowing style. Expect a lot of 4-3, 3-2 matches.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/07/06 at 4:38 AM

        Have you not heard of Carlos Alberto Parreira? I thought Roma played a more 4-1-4-1 under Spaletti, with Totti as the lone striker sometimes dropping deep?

        Do you have any details about the transfer itself? Google didn’t spit anything meaningful out this morning. Thanks.


        • Posted by EFG on 2012/07/06 at 6:27 AM

          Good call on Parreira, overlooked him. “Pioneered” may not have been the right word, but forgive me, it was before I had my morning coffee. Totti played his normal trequartista role that he has for most of his career except in this instance he was the farthest up the field without a striker.

          Regarding the transfer, I’ve been seeing €3.5m plus Leandro Greco and another player on loan. Very nice get for Roma at those terms.


          • Posted by Dikranovich on 2012/07/06 at 6:51 AM

            It looks like the 4-6 was really first used by Romania at the 94 world cup, and maybe brazil under whAts his name really played a 4-2-2-2.


            • Actually it goes at least as far back as the great Hungarian sides of the 1950’s. But a more modern example can be seen in Man U’s 2008 Champions League wining side.

        • Posted by BernieBernier on 2012/07/06 at 8:52 AM

          Greg Seltzer reported that it was 3 million euro, a player (who I never heard of) and a loan of another player (who I never heard of). He estimated it as a 6 million euro package in total.


      • As a long-time Roma supporter, it’s great to read about their new style. They often looked plodding and labored under Enrique and Ranieri. So a switch back to a high tempo, high pressure game (similar to how they played when Spaletti’s teams were at their peak) is welcome. Bradley should fit in well.


  3. Posted by dude on 2012/07/06 at 8:16 AM

    Roma’s my team in Serie A, so no problem. At the very least, they play more positive, attacking football than their rivals. Should be fun.


  4. Posted by JMarFTL on 2012/07/06 at 8:41 AM

    This is pretty much a dream for me. I’m a huge USMNT fan, and have always been vocal about Bradley (even when everyone was saying he was only on the team because of his Dad). But, ever since my trip to Rome a decade ago, I’ve been an AS Roma supporter as well. Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi are my favorites and I’ve had my Roma-Liverpool @ Fenway tickets for months now! I really hope Bradley gets minutes – and I really hope he listens to everything De Rossi tells him because if he becomes even close to the player De Rossi is, the USMNT will be all the better for it.


  5. Posted by BernieBernier on 2012/07/06 at 8:53 AM

    As a USMNT fan I really hope that having DeRossi there will help break Junior of his desire to drop back and play the #6. We are at our best when he is playing the “linker” playing both defense but getting forward and making passes in attack.


    • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2012/07/06 at 2:25 PM

      “I really hope that having DeRossi there will help break Junior of his desire to drop back and play the #6. ”

      Was that MB’s “desire” or did the manager ask him to do that?


      • Posted by BernieBernier on 2012/07/06 at 3:38 PM

        Obviously I don’t have any direct insight. My sense from watching and take that with a grain of salt was that Bradley loses trust in the #6 from time to time and when he does he gets stuck too far back. I know some games he has been the #6 and others he has been asked to get more forward with Edu being the #6. Think the Canada game versus the Scotland game.


        • Bradley has been a high level pro for a long time. There is a lot of evidence that says he knows what he is doing.

          You say “loses trust in the #6”. I say he sees a teamate that needs help and that the expected tactical situation is not what it should be so Bradley makes adjustments. If this is not a good idea a manager can always find ways to let Bradley know.

          Therefore, my assumption would be the manager is in agreement with Bradley.


          • Posted by BernieBernier on 2012/07/07 at 8:01 AM

            Respectfully disagree.

            Klinsman sitting Bradley at the beginning was a potential sign of the manager not being in agreement with Bradley. If the manager thought that the #6 needed help he would he would play two defensive MFs (something like a 4-2-3-1). Instead JK keeps trotting out a 4-3-3 which in he plays one DMF in front of the 6. Also don’t forget the clip of Bradley lecturing Beckerman against Ecuador when he came in as a second half sub, making an indication of a pulley system between the two of them and then Bradley not playing for a couple games.

            There is no question that the offense looks better when Bradley is going forward and making forward passes. When Bradley is in the #6 role and Edu is the one going forward we struggle.

            Bradley’s best games under JK have been Slovenia (played RM in a diamond MF), Scotland (played linking MF), Italy (played linking MF), and second half of Brazil game (again played linking MF). His worst games were Canada (played more of a #6 with Edu playing the linking MF), France (he played the #6), first half of Brazil (played #6 as part of JK’s strategy).


            • Posted by BernieBernier on 2012/07/07 at 8:03 AM


              It should say 1 DMF in front of the back 6. not one DMF in front of the 6.

            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/07/07 at 9:21 AM

              I would have thought Klinsmann benching Bradley was because he was not getting regular playing time because he was ‘frictionally unemployed’, and perhaps lacked match fitness / sharpness, no? Rather than being in disagreement.

            • Posted by BernieBernier on 2012/07/07 at 10:45 AM

              I am sure that was part of it. Part of it was also the idea of having him earn his spot back after his Dad being fired.

              That said, the whole commentary track Klinsman had about Beckerman doing exactly what he was told and starting over Bradley (remember early on Edu played “linker”) leads credence to my theory. Granted its only a theory.

              I wouldn’t call it I would say it was motivational to get Bradley to be more tactically astute.

            • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2012/07/07 at 12:11 PM


              That is quite a leap you are taking on the Beckerman-MB incident. We have no idea what Bradley was saying to Beckerman. Maybe Captain Crofton owes Mikey money.

              As George says MB wasn’t playing at Villa and was in the midst of transtioning to Chievo right around the time JK was coming in.

              That makes, for me, a pretty simple explanation for why JK did not play MB for a while. It’s not the same but I have transitioned to a new job and a new culture ( new language in MB’s case) in a foreign country and it is not easy.

              And you should note JK knows all about such transitions

              Your speculation is fine and entirely possible but it remains just that, speculaltion and gossip.

              If I’m JK I tell myself, “fine let MB get back in shape and grounded in Italy, he will have an even better apprecation of tactics and when he is good and ready I’ll bring him in. That way he will probably play well, which will help defuse issues about his dad and so on.”

              Now isn’t that simpler?

              By the way, before he went to Chievo, MB was a 6 year professional player with a lot of starting experience in MLS, the Erediviese,the Bundesliga, the Gold Cup, World Cup qualifying and the World Cup. Plus he was a coach’s son and practiced with the USMNT as a younger teenager.

              Yet you make him sound like he was a kid just out of college. I’m betting before he ever went to Italy, MB could have taught you and me an awful lot about the game.

              Mind you I did not like MB when he first played for the USMNT. I thought he was a train wreck waiting to happen and way too agressive. But I never had a problem with his playing time because I always thought his USMNT competition, at the time, was either hurt , pathetic or just awful. Plus it seemed like he needed to play to get better.

              Anyway, he is turning out to be even better than my highest hopes for him so good for Mikey.

            • Posted by KickinNames.. on 2012/07/10 at 3:02 PM


              Have to agree with you 100% that JK sitting MB had much to do with hitting a “reset” button on Mike’s idea of his role with the Nats and his lack of 1st team time was a convenient excuse. I think he was one of the best players on the squad but JK saw the need (as many fans have called for) to instill some discipline into Mike’s game and his approach to the linking role. I’m truly happy to see him succeeding and I agree and am excited by the fact that DeRossi will be a strong presence behind him that will force him to perform exclusively in the linking/box to box role that he has been so successful with.

              Kind of strange to dismiss Bernie’s thoughts as “gossip and speculation” and then offer your own steadfast opinion based on….pure speculation?… dontchathink?

            • K Names,

              Who is dismissing Bernie’s thoughts?

              Of course they are in the realm of “gossip and speculation”!

              Bernie is a long standing contributor to this site and his thoughts and insight are valued,

              However, in this case, they are not based on anything he has been able to prove, no verifiable facts, and no statements from the parties involved.

              It’s just Bernie saying. And that falls into the realm of gossip and speculation.

              Bernie is no different from the person down the street who sees a man and his wife apparently screaming at each other in their car, speculates that this means they will kill each other and then spreads the word on Facebook. In fact, maybe they have always interacted that way, all the time during the entirety of their misbegotten union and will do so for the next 50 years.

              Bernie says that because it APPEARS that MB90 is lecturing the Crofton Flash about the finer points of playing defensive midfielder, JK has taken exception to his Mikey lecturing JK’s fave D mid.

              In fact, Bernie, you and I have no idea what MBN90 said or how he meant it. And we don’t know if JK gave a damn about it one way or the other. Now if you were on the sidelines, next to JK and heard every word went down and followed everyone to the locker room afterwards and followed up on that, that might be different.

              And then from that you guys weave this involved thread about JK’s motivations re MB90.

              What I referred to on the other hand, is the following verifiable facts:

              o When JK came in MB 90 had not played very many matches for some time. He then managed to transfer to Chievo.

              o JK has made many verifiable statements that USMNT players need to be playing as much as possible at the highest level possible.

              The fact that JK was the new guy meant that everyone had just “transferred” to a “new club”. Different playing philosophy, playing style, new players, etc. etc. The transition for some players (Tim Howard, Boca, and Dempsey for example) was smoother than it might have been for others, but everyone had to adapt. It is just obviously harder for the guys like MB90 and Jozy who have to adapt to two ( club and country) new playing situation s not just one.

              The explanation I lean towards is simpler and more based in information that we can verify than is Bernie’s.

              Of course, that does not mean that I am right and you and Bernie are wrong.

              Y’all are just taking a much bigger leap of faith than I am willing to take.

              Managers and players have no real incentive to tell you the truth in these kind of situations and we have no way of proving what they were thinking, so most fans, like you and Bernie, just make stuff up based on what they see and assume about the people involved and choose to believe it. And you now what they say about assuming things.

              And, just to be sure, you both could be right.

    • Posted by EFG on 2012/07/06 at 3:53 PM

      Zeman has made it clear that De Rossi will be hia defensive mid. End of discussion. This should allow Bradley to get forward more which I think is something most USMNT fans want to see.


      • Posted by KickinNames.. on 2012/07/10 at 2:51 PM

        Its what we’ve been crying out for from Mikey for years. I hope he can adjust to a big time squad and the pressure of playing for something week in/ week out. I think he can and it will be interesting to see how he does in such a magnified role.


  6. Posted by Crow on 2012/07/06 at 4:48 PM

    Dirkanovich will get two Bradley Roma jerseys anyway so its okay if the first one is small.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/07/06 at 5:20 PM

      One with “Dikranovich” on the back, and the other with “Narkid”…


      • Posted by KickinNames.. on 2012/07/10 at 3:04 PM

        And a Marvell Wynne “00” USMNT kit signifying the number of matches he deserves to be called in for…


  7. Posted by Juan Pablo Berreondo on 2012/07/06 at 6:18 PM

    I find this so refreshing, like water in the desert. Thanks! DAJE ROMA!


  8. Been away from the internet for too long. This is the first I heard of Zeman and Bradley coming to Roma. I’ve been a Roma fan since Capello came aboard (right after Zeman left) and have had numerous giallorossi jerseys. Looks like I’ll have to break down and get another one this year.

    I really hope Bradley is successful and helps the team get back into the CL. Although I appreciated what Luis Enrique was trying to do last year, they never really recovered from their sputtering start. True, they still had a chance to qualify with about ten games to go but they stumbled to the challenge.

    Does anyone know if they’re retaining Simon Kjaer this year? They’ll need some steel in the back if Zeman continues his swashbuckling style.


  9. Posted by EFG on 2012/07/10 at 12:26 PM

    “We received many offers for Michael Bradley but he gave absolute preference for Roma”- Chievo’s Sporting Director.

    Good, he wants to be there. Let’s get this deal done.


  10. Posted by EFG on 2012/07/15 at 8:01 AM

    Michael Bradley is with the team and there are pictures of him in Roma “casual wear” (for lack of a better word). Reports are that he will begin training tomorrow.


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