Postcard from Europe: Settled Bradley dressed to impress
AMSTERDAM — He wasn't gone for very long, but for US national-teamer Michael Bradley, this is an autumn that feels a lot more like a spring: fresh starts all around.
After a long, drawn out club transfer saga, the 24-year-old midfielder has finally found a new home at Chievo Verona in Serie A, where he is now a starter. And now that his club situation is finally settled, he's also back in front of new US national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann, who called Bradley into his first extended camp under new management.
A US fixture over the last five-and-a-half years, it's a rare occasion for Bradley to miss a camp, as he did last month. The World Cup veteran knows he must now re-apply for the job under a new manager.
"Any time you change the coach, there's a learning process," Bradley told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Italy this past weekend. "He has to get to know the players, what the guys are like off the field — just getting a feel for who he can count on moving forward. And we need to learn what he wants to do."
Of course, the previous United States manager was his dad, Bob Bradley. Like son, father is also settling in at a new post as Egypt manager. It's an undertaking sure to prove testing for the coach, both on the field and from a cultural standpoint.
From a family full of competitive fire, it's no surprise that Michael approves of the move and reports that pop is eager to turn the ignition.
"In all ways, I think he's excited for the job and the challenge ahead," he offered. "He knows what it all means for him to go work as the coach for the Egyptian national team. It's a great challenge. He's all ready to dive in and get going."
The younger Bradley has already begun his Chievo tenure in fine form. He debuted off the bench in game two of the new season, grabbed a starting place in midweek and by the next weekend was helping to set up both goals in a 2-1 victory over then-leaders Genoa.
It's obviously great to excel and win, but after a summer stint in no man's land at previous owners Borussia Mönchengladbach and an Aston Villa loan spell full of spectating over the back half of last season, Bradley is most happy just to be back in the game.
"It's nice to be somewhere where you feel like you're part of something again, where you're itching to play every weekend," he stated. "Ask any player — he wants to play. That's what we love to do, that's the most fun. You step on the field, the lights come on, everything is happening and that's what it's all about.
"The second half of last season obviously wasn't like that, but that's life. It's all a part of it. You just put the work in and know your chance is coming."
This chance has arrived in the form of featuring in and learning from the league he most loved growing up. The play in Serie A suits Bradley well, both due to its thinking approach and sheer intensity.
"I think what you have in Serie A right now is a good mix of the tactical teams and then some skillful players," he said. "It makes for a good game and a competitive season. It's been good to get my feet wet. Now, I just need to concentrate on continuing to improve."
Though Bradley has thus far played the right midfield station in Chievo's 4-3-1-2, he has experience tackling different roles and systems. With Klinsmann trying to install a 4-3-3, the guy known for his two-way game opines that he might serve the US best in defensive midfield.
"Getting the ball, connecting passes and helping the team find a rhythm for playing," said Bradley, listing off the job descriptions he likes best. "I feel like that's a spot where I can really help the team."
But after two games without him in the midfield, Bradley's excited to get the chance to re-join the US set-up for what he hopes is his 61st senior cap in Saturday's friendly against Honduras in Miami. As far as he's concerned, he'll do whatever's asked of him by Klinsmann or anyone else in charge.
"There may come a time where they say they think someone else can do a better job," Bradley said. "That's soccer, that's life. At the same time, the door will never be closed for me to come back again."