Frank Isola: Michael Bradley's time is now

With the 24-year-old on the verge of a move to one of Europe's most storied clubs, how Bradley grabs the opportunity could affect the development of the game in the U.S.
Michael Bradley has neither the flare of Clint Dempsey nor the name recognition - at least in the United States - of Freddy Adu.

In fact, for a long time Bradley was even overshadowed by his father when Bob Bradley coached the U.S. national team. But Michael Bradley is about to distinguish himself in way few Americans ever have. And that includes Dempsey as well as Bradley's famous father.

Bradley is on the verge of signing with AS Roma, a major European club, which means a lot to the talented midfielder and even more to the development of soccer in the U.S.

"Having guys playing at the highest level week in and week out is only going to help our national program," Bradley told "That has to be the progression."

The world's top national teams all have multiple players employed by the best clubs. Spain's roster is basically a combination of players from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Besides Bradley's imminent move, Dempsey has been rumored to be leaving Fulham for Liverpool. Dempsey had the best season ever by a Yank abroad and wants the chance to compete for the Premier League and Champions League trophies.

"It is important for kids back home to believe they can make it in Europe," Dempsey says. "It gives them a goal to shoot for."

Bradley has similar goals in Italy. He's coming off an important season with Serie A outfit Chievo Verona, where he was a regular in the starting 11 and had supporters calling him "General Bradley." There are no guarantees of a regular place with Roma, where Daniele De Rossi and the legendary Francesco Totti control the center. But Bradley is versatile enough to find a place.

Bradley has flourished as a two-way midfielder, and he has the work rate and demeanor to play a variety of positions. He is very much the son of a coach.

In fact, father and son are very similar: driven, serious and competitive. There was no telling how the younger Bradley would react to his father being fired as U.S. manager last August or whether it would jeopardize Michael's spot with the national team. Any concerns, however, were immediately dismissed.

The younger Bradley has finally established himself in Europe following disappointing campaigns with Aston Villa in England and Germany's Borussia Monchengladbach. Bradley embraced his opportunity in Italy and did all he could to fit in, even learning the language in a couple of months.


As for his national team duties, Bradley has emerged as one of Jurgen Klinsmann's most indispensable players. Klinsmann likes Bradley for the same reasons that the former national coach liked him.

The traits that have made Bradley a key member of the national team - talent, toughness, strong character - are the qualities that have taken him from the MLS to Serie A.

The last U.S. player to sign with a top Italian club was defender Oguchi Onyewu, who joined AC Milan in 2009. Onyewu, though, suffered a season-ending injury early in his first year and never played a league game.

Onyewu would have struggled to be a regular with AC Milan. Bradley has the chance to make a contribution for Roma, the national team and the development of the sport in the U.S.

Make no mistake about it, Bradley's moment has arrived.