TORONTO – While midfielder Miralem Pjanic was named the Man of the Match for AS Roma in the Serie A side’s 4-1 exhibition victory over Toronto FC on Wednesday evening, it was Michael Bradley who once again did the heavy lifting for head coach Rudi Garcia.
Bradley was a workhorse and vital cog in the middle of the pitch Wednesday night, playing 88 minutes and moving the ball effectively as a brace by Pjanic paced Roma to a comfortable victory and kept them unbeaten on their three-match North American tour, which opened with an impressive victory over the MLS All-Stars on July 31.
English Premier League side Everton have reportedly expressed their interest in acquiring the US international during the current transfer window -- interest that was rejected, as reported by MLSsoccer.com's Greg Seltzer. And following the match, neither Garcia nor Bradley sounded like it was very likely that the former MLS teen phenom would be plying his trade anywhere but the Italian capital for the foreseeable future.
“Michael is not only a great player, he is a great man,” Garcia said. “On the pitch he is someone who is working hard for the others. For a coach, he is a fantastic player. I think that now when he plays with Kevin [Strootman], Miralem or Daniele [De Rossi], Michael is doing better from the technical point of view. I am very happy with Michael.”
Said Bradley: “We all know how the media works and what this time of year is like. For me, I love Roma and I love playing here. I’m not thinking about anything else than starting the season here and really giving everything for the Roma shirt.”
The 26-year-old is entering his third campaign in the Italian top flight and he was quick to state that he feels that playing for Roma affords him an ideal opportunity to continue to improve as a player.
“I feel like I am improving and my best years are still ahead of me,” Bradley added. “I think if I continue to work hard and have the right mentality, I will still be someone who continues to improve as I get older.”
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With his heart and mind currently focused on Roma, Bradley is likely a number of years away from even considering the type of move that his USMNT teammate Clint Dempsey recently made when he transferred back to MLS from EPL side Tottenham Hotspur.
That said, Bradley was not particularly surprised by the move that Dempsey has made.
“First and foremost, I am happy for Clint,” Bradley said. “I know it is something that he thought about and talked to his family about and, in the end, they are really excited about it. It’s a great opportunity for him and I think it is a great thing for the league.
“I think there will always be players that think that they need to go to Europe in order to improve,” Bradley added. “Clint played in Europe and had a lot of success there for a lot of years and now he has chosen to come back and help the game to continue to grow here.”