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Does Michael Bradley at Sunderland make much sense?

Aug 24, 2013, 6:15 PM EDT


The thought of Michael Bradley at Sunderland has me crinkling up my nose and squinting, as if I’ve just caught a feint whiff of something unpleasant, but not quite identifiable.

Bradley is doing splendidly at Roma, a team that finished sixth in a top-level league (Serie A) last year.

I know the TV situation for the rest of us, where Bradley is concerned, would improve rather dramatically. And he would play in behind another important U.S. man, Jozy Altidore. Otherwise, I cannot really see where what makes this a good career move.

For one, Sunderland appears to be a potentially unstable situation, a bottom- to mid-level team now under the guidance of a highly emotional and potentially volatile figure (Italian Paolo Di Canio) that we just do not know that much about. (Well, other than that he is a highly emotional and potentially volatile figure.)

Will his charges under his tutelage ultimately prosper and become better players, still? Will things around the Stadium of Light evolve or devolve? Will Bradley and his family find England’s industrial northeast to their liking, always a relevant factor in these moves, as player off-field happiness helps dictate his chances of on-field success?

Those are the known unknowns; what of the unknown unknowns?

(MORE: Roma reportedly reject $10 million Sunderland offer for Bradley)

Ahead of a World Cup year, nothing is more important than playing time. We know Bradley is a respected figure in Rome, central to manager Rudi Garcia’s plan. He’s in a good place – in more ways than one.

The man’s soccer brain has just grown and grown. If he’s not one of the most intelligent soccer men to ever pull on a U.S. shirt, he’s surely right up there. The payoff for Bradley’s movement in midfield areas, his tactical awareness, his instincts and keen sense of what is happening around him is all that highly intelligent and useful work with the ball around Jurgen Klinsmann’s team.

He’s a real master at keeping the ball when the situation calls for it, and then doing something constructive with when the situation allows.

But the further payoff is in adding a counterweight to Jermaine Jones’ impulsive ways through the central third. Bradley is almost always there, even when it’s Jones who should be.

So much of that tactical awareness is a product of his recent years in Italy.

Bradley’s weaponized soccer brain was born, literally and figuratively, because he’s the son of a soccer coach, and a darn good one, in Bob Bradley. It was nurtured by spending boyhood years around the game, cultivated further in the technical and geometrically inclined Dutch game, further steeled in Germany. But the rounding off, the Master’s degree, if you will, came in Italy.

Italy is a good place for Bradley, who quickly learned the language so he could fully immerse himself in the broader culture of the game. Roma is a good address.

Why bother a good thing?


  1. rswestbrook - Aug 24, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    It was a disappointment when Altidore chose that team and would be an even bigger one if they took Bradley away from a great situation.

  2. rswestbrook - Aug 24, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    We also know that Di Canio played for Lazio and made fascist gestures towards Roma fans during his playing days.

    • 77cjh77 - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:45 PM

      and what does that have anything to do with bradley moving to sunderland or not? (hint: it doesn’t)

  3. alexprice33 - Aug 24, 2013 at 6:59 PM

    Your argument is that the move to England will not improve his game. You then state that his time in the Dutch, German and Italian leagues each developed different areas of his game. Do you not think playing in the most competitive and energetic league in the world may force him to quicken his pace and first touch? Also, evolve and devolve are not opposites of one another.

    • tariencole - Aug 24, 2013 at 7:19 PM

      I’ve never seen the English game considered a good one for 1st touch before. In fact, just the opposite. And having played in the more technically-inclined Dutch league already, his pace and first touch were refined there.

      He is an important player at Roma. And that’s much better than having to re-establish himself ahead of a World Cup on a team that very likely could be playing in the Championship next season.

  4. gpry - Aug 24, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    It’s good that Altidore is in England playing every week in a physical league!! But that’s not Bradley’s game. Bradley is in a good place at an established club, he should stay where he’s at

  5. midtec2005 - Aug 25, 2013 at 1:27 AM

    I doubt Bradley wants to make this move, and I doubt Roma does either. Sunderland probably just offered a huge sum of money for him. I don’t think he will move though.

    But the question asked it does it make sense. For Sunderland, yes. For Bradley and Roma, no. Unless that transfer fee is huge! Quite frankly I think he’s Romas top midfielder, and the top U.S. player, period. He just doesn’t get as much recognition as Donovan and Dempsey because he doesn’t score as many goals. And he’s only 25…

    • nbcrollaround - Aug 25, 2013 at 3:28 AM

      Sunderland fans would turn on him after one game.
      These crap mid table and below BPL teams fans see every new transfer as the answer to all of their problems.
      It also seems as though they give American players from MLS an extra hard time no matter how good they are. Ingrates…these American players are living their dream playing for their crap BPL teams.
      Meanwhile, Bradley is a fan favorite at Roma.
      On the Donovan situation, maybe he should go to Arsenal…hes relatively cheap, and all of their crap fans are complaining about their lack of depth. All of this despite going 6-1 pre season, winning their first CL play off away from home in Turkey, and starting the BPL 1 and 1. Maybe he would be welcome there.

  6. youmugs - Aug 25, 2013 at 5:23 AM

    Typical Yank muppets, no knowledge of the history of the game or the world around you. Yeeha!!!!!!
    Go on playing your ‘Soccer’ and but keep your stupid brainless comments to yourselves, regarding things above you and beyond your comprehension.

    • mdac1012 - Aug 25, 2013 at 8:53 AM

      Typical condescending European! Instead of bringing an intelligent prospective to the debate, you spend your time complaining about us “yanks.” If its so frustrating for you to read these posts, I am sure you can find better things to do with your time. Being a from Europe and being a football fan, I am sure you could be at some stadium giving the Nazi salute and being an all around drunken jerk instead.

      • youmugs - Aug 25, 2013 at 11:11 AM

        Point one: Thank you for labeling me condescending as this means that you agree that I speak from a point of superiority in my knowledge of the game. (Check that book of words called a dictionary for the meaning of the term!!!!).
        Point two: I am a lifetime, proud supporter of ‘That’ club which just so happens to be one of the founders of ‘the’ football league, I believe 1879.
        Point three: Nazi salutes! that’s hilarious coming from a country of hood wearing, cross burning, hicks that believe “GUNS R US”.
        Again the typical american has no sense of history, no knowledge of what is beyond what they can see with the naked eye. And no passion for anything but stuffing your face.
        EPL, best in the world and the world agrees!!!!!

      • mdac1012 - Aug 25, 2013 at 12:10 PM

        Yes, look up the term, it’s not a compliment! It means having or showing a patronizing supperiority, it doesn’t mean you are superior! That’s an important distinction that apparently you were unable to grasp!

        I agree the EPL is the best league in the world, it’s the reason I follow the sport because every other league falls short in comparison as far as I am concerned. I never said anything different and never even commented on Sunderland as a place or a team.

        As far as the term “soccer” goes, if you don’t like it, you have no one to blame but your own countrymen, since the term was invented in England.

      • ttcyprus - Aug 26, 2013 at 6:51 AM

        mdac1012: Please learn your European football history, do a little research and you will understand that most of the big European cities have two teams normally split by political or religious implications. Roma and Lazio are no different and Di Canio was a player that transcended the gulf from standing on the terraces to playing for the club he had so passionately supported. When he made that salute to his beloved supporters in the Lazio v Roma derby he was in that moment…he knew what it meant to them. It was a salute the fans rightly or wrongly do all the time and he was sharing that moment, he was saying to them Im with you.
        Its a shame that the reporter who wrote this article has shown his ignorance, along with some of the Americans who have responded. How is it possible to say little is known about Di Canio who graced the EPL and is considered to have scored the best goal ever in it. To say Sunderland fans would turn on Bradley as most crap bottom and mid table EPL teams are is nothing short of ignorance and brings scorn on American football (soccer) supporters. There 92 teams in the English football league, so to be in the EPL, the best league in the world is no small feat. Crap is hardly a choice word for clubs performing at that level.

    • lyleoross - Aug 26, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      I can well understand why Sunderland wants this move, and I think it would be a brilliant one. Somewhere in the pile of comments by my fellow American posters was one about Altidore being the best pick up by Sunderland, and the appropriate reply that Giancherini was by far the better pick up.

      I’m wondering if the thought is that MB can get more balls to JA, and that his presence might just free up Giancherini into even more of an attacking role? That would be interesting to watch, if it worked that way.

      BTW – the overt criticism of Canio seems a bit out of place. I don’t see him as this hyper volatile guy, yes, he’s emotional, but he’s not had any more problems on these lines than other top managers. On the other hand, you can’t question his loyalty.

      If MB can survive the hack-a-ball played in CONCACAF, he can survive in the EPL, and make great contributions. As for whether this move would be good for the US Nat Squad, that for me is a harder read. Would it make MB better or worse in his role with the U.S.? Well, it can’t be as bad as Dempsey going to Seattle, and I’m not as convinced that it would be as bad as many say it would be. If it consolidated the dynamic between JA and MB, then it might be very good. But if the dynamic we saw in BandH is for real, I’m not sure that relationship needs to improved.

    • 77cjh77 - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:47 PM

      you do realize “soccer” is a british word, don’t you? or are you too busy getting high on your own self-importance to look into the history of the game?

  7. bamford1000 - Aug 25, 2013 at 5:58 AM

    I don’t see the need for a personal and misinformed dig at the North East. It was once an industrial area but you would be hard pressed to find a coal mine or ship yard today. It’s also surrounded by the most beautiful countryside, with the rolling Northumberland Hills, beautiful Northumberland Coast and Scottish borders within easy reach, as are many beautiful cities and towns. Furthermore is the North East any more industrial than Manchester, Liverpool or Birmingham, whilst Italian cities such as Rome and Naples have serious social problems with vast ghettos and searing poverty. It should also be noted that Bradley himself is from New Jersey a very industrial area, so I don’t understand all these journalistic digs at the North East of England. In terms of Sunderland a club with a history spanning nearly 125 years, and who reguarly have amongst the best attendance in the premier league, with the Stadium of Light (50,000) having a fantastic atmosphere. Sunderland are actually sleeping giants, like their nearby rivals Newcastle, and like other clubs across the pennines such as Leeds United. As for PDC, yes he is volatile but so was Fergie at Man Utd with his hair dryer treatment or Wenger at Arsenal when he kicks hell out of his water bottle. Give Paulo a chance, he’s only been at the club for a short period and has done is best to build a new team, although it really takes a few seasons for a manager to have a real impact.

    • johnds48 - Aug 25, 2013 at 6:16 AM

      Hi bamford1000, you must be trawling through the Sunday morning footy news hopeful for some positive transfer news, it gets your back up when your club is dismissed when connected to a player that isn’t well know in your own country, oh yes, I’ll have to send an email to Laurent Blanc about where Marouane Chamakh is now

      • bamford1000 - Aug 25, 2013 at 6:31 AM

        Johnds48 – Sunderland have already have already signed 11 new players this transfer window, and there may well be a couple more before the transfer deadline, including a creative midfielder. As for positive news, a point at St Mary’s is good news, Southampton is a difficult place to go, you just need to look at Man Utd’s dismal record at St Mary’s. Southampton have a very good team, particularly up front, however Sunderland defended very well from home and created chances themselves. In terms of Chamakh, I never rated him and Palace already look to be in trouble.

  8. johnds48 - Aug 25, 2013 at 6:11 AM

    There appears to be a criticism that the “EPL” is ignorant about the capability of US soccer players, this is largely true but I don’t know if you appreciate the reasons behind this. Most coverage in the UK focusses on players going to the US who are in the latter stages of their career; the average American sports fan has a derisory attitude towards soccer and doesn’t take the sport seriously; the commentators are often seen as hilarious as the terms they use are out of context or just completely wrong; and I think The Simpsons showed a soccer clip from a South American game!.
    You may think this is unfair but that’s the way it is, but equally there is an ignorance in some of these posts; fans wouldn’t turn on a player because of where he’s from, far from it, Jurgen Klinnsman, Osvaldo Ardiles, Theirry Henry; Dempsey and Donovan are high profile players but they have both had a successful stint in the EPL, do you remember Bradley at Aston Villa? As for Sunderland, it isn’t the Industrial north east, there is no industry, granted it’s not Tuscany but neither is Rome, there are some beautiful places nearby in Durham, Northumberland and for that matter Cumbria. Ask Claudio Reyna who was well liked and respected at Sunderland 2001-3, ask why the US Tycoon Ellis Short decided to buy Sunderland AFC, that is a good question!
    But the pivotal point here is, does it make sense? For Michael Bradley it all depends what questions he asks himself: Do I want more money? Do I want to be in a league that has the best world wide coverage? Could it be a stepping stone to a Champions league club? Do I want a challenge? Does the view from my bedroom window matter? For the majority of professional footballers, money talks but if he wants to stay at Roma as a Sunderland fan and an admirer of Roma for many years I would totally respect that, at the end of the day the only problem Michael Bradley would face in the North East is understanding the local language!

  9. theforthlion - Aug 25, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    Well that “team” as you put it is a club with massive infrastructure, world class training and youth facilities, a deep rich history stretching back over 130 years and to be brutally honest Altidore is not good enough for or the premier league which you all seem so quick to describe as second rate is by far the fastest league in the world who wants to watch Barcelona fanny about with the ball for 20 minutes before they do anything meaningful, the premier league is the best league in the world not just because of the reputation of its players but for the style, pace and technicality of its game lots of passing lots of movement plenty shots and some great goalkeeping, there isn’t a tougher test of a players game, and lets be honest you yanks won’t understand any of this you don’t seem to be able to grasp passion in sport all you see is who has spent the most money and I’m sure every real football fan will agree with me I don’t come on here to complain about your opinions which however misguided you are entitled to no I only come here to try and educate, you can’t write off so much history as just that team and you certainly cannot take serie A over the premier league it’s just that simple, well lets see all the ill educated responses

    • ktabz - Aug 25, 2013 at 3:39 PM

      See here in the states we have many different sports. I read your comment and it reminded me of college basketball fans. There are some dreadful teams in very good leagues and whenever they match up with a team from a lesser league they talk about how awesome the league is, and conveniently leave out the fact that their team is $hit. Honestly, having watched both Sunderland games this year and many other PL games this year, as well as a bunch of MLS games this year, Sunderland would have a hard time finishing mid-table in MLS. The boot it upfield mentality of the backs and midfield is completely disrespectful to the game. Altidore doesn’t look good enough for the prem because he’s the only striker in the league that is only getting service from 60 yard airballs from panicked centerbacks. Put him through on goal and he’ll finish, put a quality ball actually in the box, on the ground or in the air and he’ll finish. Boot it up field 50-50 and no one will score. Sunderland fans, for all their knowledge and history in their big football brains, seemed to miss that on their lone goal of the season 3 defenders went with Altidore on the corner. That’s how the shortest guy on the pitch got such a free header. Fact of the matter is that Sunderland couldn’t compete with Roma and I suspect will be competing in the Championship next year.

  10. olddirtygamer - Aug 25, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    Bradley at Sunderland would provide better creative service to the wings and potentially unlock Altidore because the Black Cats would have a player who could make movements in the attack that their current midfield lynchpin cannot. To that end, it is a creative and smart move; the counter to that, of course, is that tactically, Di Canio’s side is very poor at getting service in to Altidore where he can be effective and are relying too much on Sessegnon who, in my opinion, isn’t carrying his load or making the runs necessary to clear out more of the middle where Altidore can thrive.

    Bradley would be better served playing for a side like Manchester United where he could spell Michael Carrick, be a more creative attacking alternative than Cleverley or Anderson, and provide significantly better forward thrust / service in the attack. United’s reluctance to feature (or even sign) American players in recent history will prove moot however as $10M is a drop in the bucket for a player whose quality rivals some of the other midfielders United has already been linked to.

  11. theforthlion - Aug 25, 2013 at 8:40 AM

    That is a fair point gamer he would get into man utds first team and being a sunderland supporter all of my life I’d have to say he’d be coup for sunderland, but if it does happen then surely he would be the main man and make watching sunderland a much more exciting prospect

  12. spugftb - Aug 25, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    Sunderland is in Durham which most of you thick yanks won’t have ever heard of. It is a beautiful part of the world with a history that you lot can’t even begin to imagine. The Premier League is the most dramatic league on the planet and Sunderland draws one of the biggest crowds in the division. You lot will never understand what being an English football fan is about as you are used to team franchises where our teams have been supported for over a hundred years by us and our ancestors. Stick to discussing your girls sports like gridiron and accidentally killing British soldiers with your ‘friendly fire’

    If Bradley comes he will love it.

    • 77cjh77 - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:54 PM

      dude, get over yourself. your over-inflated sense of self-worth is very apparent, as is your anger (probably in no small part due to the fact that you know your team is going to suck this year) and insecurity (again, probably in no small part due to the fact that your team is going to suck this year). the whole world hates america. this isn’t news. chill man

  13. wfjackson3 - Aug 25, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    This place has gone down hill. These comments are garbage.

    • midtec2005 - Aug 26, 2013 at 12:46 PM


  14. edwardstockton2013 - Aug 25, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    As A lifelong Sundlerland fan I get constantly annoyed by people who have only watched TV coverage as qualified to become Sunderland critics. I also get annoyed that certain people chose to use football to justify their individual prejudices and small minded ness. Get a grip and get back to football!!!!! Bradley would be a fantastic acquisition for any club in any league. He has come of age this last season and I don’t care where he is from he is a fantastic footballer. By the way history and heritage does not equate to good judgement!!!! Martin Oneil????? Sunderland is a club with Huge potential Bradley could help us realize that potential if not him someone else it is a big wide world!!!!!

  15. jeffsterwritesagain - Aug 30, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    I think it could work, but irrespective of whether he’s a fit for them or if they’re a fit for him, let’s remember that di Canio has signed a whole squad of new players. Do Sunderland really need another player to accommodate into his system?

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