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Why Michael Bradley is worth the money … and other lingering thoughts on Toronto FC’s major signing

Jan 9, 2014, 10:45 PM EDT

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According to all reports, Michael Bradley is about to come Major League Soccer’s most well-paid man. So we may as well begin the initial probing of the inevitable question: whether he’s worth the money?

The very short answer: the guy will be worth every penny.

It’s not just that Bradley instantly becomes one of the top passers and one of the most intelligent of midfield leaders in MLS, he represents something else that is almost as important.

Good organizations build systems of accountability from the inside out. It’s a big part of the reason Houston has done so well over the years, even with smaller-budget talent: the locker room is always right, and the day-to-day accountability polices itself.

Teams like Toronto FC, a perennial MLS struggler, don’t have that – but a guy like Bradley is a great place to start. He’s the ultimate professional, which is why he’ll soon be Jurgen Klinsmann’s captain. (No offense to Clint Dempsey, but Bradley is already this national team group’s de facto captain.)

Bradley will demand excellence at the training ground and on game day, and that’s a sure bonus on the big bag of talent and midfield smart that he’ll be toting into BMO Field.

On other matters …

I asked this question on Twitter: “Remember when it was so cool to bash Landon Donovan because he wanted to play in MLS rather than Europe?”

Donovan took more than his share of flak for that. History may well reverse that sentiment, offering up Donovan as one of the pioneers, someone willing to stay in MLS to help build the league rather than jumping across the Atlantic for greater glory. Either way: Clint Dempsey took some of the same abuse, although much less of it. Bradley is likely to take even less, even though he’s just 26. This tide will continue to turn — and the soccer snobs who still like to hammer MLS because it isn’t the Premier League or Serie A or whatever will continue to fade into the background.

 Donovan, by the way, is clearly on board. What Donovan told reporters gathered Thursday in Southern California, where the national team is holding its annual January camp:

I think that it’s a testament to our league that people want to come back and play here particularly six months before a World Cup. It makes a strong statement, obviously, [Tim Leiweke] made it clear to him that it was something that he wanted, and Mike is a smart guy, I’m sure that he’s thought about this a lot and it’s something that he wants to do so I think that it is great.”

(MORE: Defoe to be unveiled Monday by Toronto FC)

(MORE: Michael Bradley’s Italian-based agent says deal to MLS now complete)

(MORE: Where Bradley’s signing falls in all-time MLS significance)

(MORE: What Toronto’s starting lineup might look like with Defoe, Bradley)

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  1. mdac1012 - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    He is worth every penny to a Toronto FC and MLS, at 26 he really has the ability to become not only the face of U.S. Soccer but also the face of MLS moving foward.

  2. footballer4ever - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:55 AM

    Welcome back, Bradley. Europe might be the mecca of football, but the U.S. football league continues to grow and will make it more difficult for quality players to realize they can get paid here and yet live in a great country like USA.

    • charmonz - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      With all due respect the league is called MLS and incorporates USA and Canada.

      • footballer4ever - Jan 11, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        Point taken, and mea culpa for “forgetting” about wonderful Canada who is a contributor to our football league and sport in North America. Unlike other leagues, except hockey, in which canadian sports franchises are not highly regarded, in MLS, TFC, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps are important football clubs who raises the appeal and importance to our league.

  3. mvktr2 - Jan 10, 2014 at 2:23 AM

    There are all manner of means of deriving worth and assigning value, the most important metric over the course of more than 1 year is almost always the bottom line, red ink vs black ink. I love the big names and want to see more of them sprinkled throughout the league.

    I’m a believer that the overall quality of the league would be improved most greatly if every team filled out it’s DP slots with 300K-1Mil type players such as Higuain, Valerie, etc. I think this is not more important but is as important to the overall quality of play. However perception is reality and more casual TV fans are going to tune in to see Donova/Keane vs Henry/Cahill vs Bradley/Dafoe vs Dempsey/Martins. Heck I want to see it also!

    With NBC Sports apparently losing/giving up MLS coverage in 2015 (the beans are spilled) I’m not sure to make of the upcoming TV contracts which had promised to be substantially larger than current contracts. If not it’s a HUGE blow, if so I think it’s time to add 2 – limited DP slots on top of the 3 – unlimited DP slots. The difference between limited and unlimited being that a limited DP slot must be filled by a player making not more than say 850K while the unlimited slots could theoretically be filled by any size salary/current style DP slots. Yes this would bring DP slots to 5 total and the salary cap will hopefully be raised substantially also. All this being finance dependent of course! I’m not advocating a blaze of NASL glory, but am inserting the big IF IF IF IF IF finances allow it.

    At some point when there is a mass of billionaire owners which MLS is approaching I wonder if the temptation to loosen the purse strings will become too much if they continue to struggle for TV viewership? If the needle isn’t moved by the slow steady progress we’ve seen in the past 6 or so years will they try buying up enough marquee names to move the needle?

    • talgrath - Jan 10, 2014 at 6:37 PM

      I’m not so sure I’d trust Christopher Harris as a source for US soccer TV deals; he’s not terribly reliable and he’s also a bit of an MLS antagonist.

  4. el timo - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    I went up to Toronto this fall to thank Dempsey for coming home to, shall we say, North America. I will be doing the same for Bradley many times this coming season. There is nothing prettier than Bradley breaking up an attack at the back, then turning upfield and starting the attack going the other way.
    Good for you, MLS, but make no mistake: Dempsey and Bradley proved their quality, and built their drawing power, overseas.

  5. footballer4ever - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:42 PM

    @charmonz

    My bad there. True, our football league , MLS, keeps growing an Canada & USA are great countries to get paid to be a footballer and to live in.

  6. drewvt6 - Jan 10, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    StevieD I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. Having watched some of the best CM’s in the league up close the past few seasons it’s easy to see if Beckerman can be an all league player how Bradley can really add to the league. I think he’ll bring a level of play like what Beckham did (once he applied himself) to the Galaxy. He was ultra competitive from having been at the highest levels in Europe and his technique and class were priceless. I’m excited to see Bradley up close again on a week-in week-out basis!

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