090513_uscr_press_bradleymichael_olson_usmnt_crc_press_0137_dxo Jeremy Olson for American Soccer Now
100-Word Opinions

Michael Bradley to MLS: 19 Soccer Pundits Weigh in

The top-ranked player in the ASN 100 appears to be on his way to Toronto FC, and everybody on the plane has a strong opinion about it. We asked 19 soccer pundits to give us their thoughts, and they did.

BY various Posted
January 09, 2014
11:02 AM
READ THESE 100-WORD TAKES and comment below, please. Better yet, click right here and join the dynamic, interactive conversation happening within our ASN Matrix.

Noah Davis
Deputy Editor, American Soccer Now
Love the move for the future of MLS. Love the move for Bradley's financial future. Not sure I love the move for Bradley's future as a player, but he's done enough to deserve the benefit of the doubt. It's hard to think the smartest American player on the field wouldn't have thoroughly considered his options off it and adjusted accordingly. Would I rather see him starting for a Champions League-caliber team? Of course. But they weren't calling. You can't go where you're not wanted. TFC opened its arms. U.S. fans, who should want MLS to succeed, should open theirs... even if they are pissed.

Jason Davis
Host, Soccer Morning
I want to be OK with this. I really do. I trust Michael Bradley, the incredibly committed and heady midfielder who is easily the first name to be penciled in to the U.S. national team lineup every time out. But I remember convincing myself that Clint Dempsey was going to be fine when he got to Seattle, only to see Deuce suffer through four months of bad form and physical abuse. Still, I don't see Bradley regressing as a player if he goes to Toronto FC, and it would be a massive signing for a growing league. I guess that means I'm "hopeful."

Kim Tate
Americans in Latin America
Michael Bradley’s move to Toronto FC will guarantee far more time than he’s currently seeing with Roma, which will put him in better contention to win a spot on Jurgen Klinsmann's final roster for Brazil 2014. Sure, there are plenty of teams in Europe or elsewhere that would be excellent, mutually beneficial options. But I like this move for Bradley, especially if it means he’ll play alongside rumored Toronto signing Jermain Defoe. And I think it enhances the spotlight on MLS’ acquisition of high-quality players from abroad. And why wouldn't we want more attention on MLS in a World Cup year?

George Quraishi
Editor in Chief, Howler
This is good for Toronto: they now have Michael Bradley. This is good for MLS: one of its shittiest teams is suddenly less shitty. This is good for the USMNT: Klinsmann’s most important player will be sharper at the World Cup. This is good for Bradley: he’ll be sharper at the World Cup and much much wealthier. So who loses? Fans who desperately want to see an American player getting time with a big European club. But here’s the thing—when that player does finally come around, he’ll have Bradley to thank for helping to pave the way.

Phil Schoen
Announcer, be In Sport
Many fans complain about retirement league stigma when older players come to MLS, but the league is not at the point where Michael Bradley can come in his prime and get better. There might be personal reasons, but soccer-wise this is an awful move for him and the U.S. national team. Name one national team player in his prime who has gotten significantly better in MLS. (Not on way up, or down.) And don’t say Donovan, because who knows how good he would have become if development was as important to him as inner peace. Now, if every single MLS team brought in a Keane or Defoe, AND a Castillo or Oriol, AND developed a Fagundez or Zardes, there would be less reason to criticize when they ALL bring home a Bradley or a Dempsey. Plus, this makes it very obvious that what's good for MLS isn't necessarily good for the U.S. national team, and what's good for Bradley the soccer player might fall short of what's good for Bradley the person.

Chris Donahoo
American Outlaws
The latest U.S. national team experiment is Michael Bradley's (alleged) move from AS Roma. While shocking, it is just that; an experiment with unknown consequence. Before losing your lunch, remember this: right now he needs confidence. If Toronto FC provides the platform for him to uphold his poise and ability to deliver for the Yanks, so be it. Mikey has surely given this ample thought and believes this is best for him now. Whether he plays for Roma, TFC or Scunthorpe United, we—American Outlaws—will indisputably support this man as he continues to be his generation's most consistent playmaker for the Nats.

John Godfrey
Editor in Chief, American Soccer Now
I desperately want the talent level in MLS to improve, and splashing the cash for great players like Michael Bradley is one way to make this happen. Before yesterday, I wouldn’t walk to the end of my driveway to see Toronto FC play; now, I’ll be watching. I will also be watching to see how Jurgen Klinsmann responds. He has been adamant that national team players need to compete at the highest level possible, and Bradley is no longer doing that. Will he lose a step, or a fraction of his intensity? I guess we’ll find out in Brazil.

Jesse Yomtov
Freelance soccer writer, ASN contributor
Upon first hearing the news, I vigorously scratched my head and may have muttered an expletive. Why would a 26-year-old with the chance to be his country's greatest player ever leave a potential Champions League club to go to MLS? If it's about minutes, Bradley could surely walk into the starting 11 for, say, Fulham. Right? After a few hours, I've realized that it's ultimately selfish of us to be in an uproar, fearing for his World Cup form. All the moves in his career have been met with mixed reactions, beginning with the initial jump to Europe at age 18. Besides the Aston Villa loan it has all worked out swimmingly, so let's have some faith he's doing the right thing.

Mark Fishkin
Co-host, The Seeing Red podcast
The notion that Bradley to MLS is a bad thing is laughable. There are plenty of fans that want the league to improve, but not through the acquisition of U.S. national team players in their prime. How else does the league get better? With both TV and labor agreements up in the next year, the signing of recognizable stars is a must. As for Bradley, playing is better than sitting on the bench, fighting for the right to dress. Toronto FC is now a must-see club. Good for all involved.

Charles Boehm
Freelance soccer writer
"MLS needs better players. Spend some money!" "Not THAT player—not the one who's from here!" The convoluted contortions of American soccer's hive-mind snapped into focus again on Wednesday afternoon as a flurry of unexpected reports broke, then sketched out the $50 million-or-so parameters of, Michael Bradley's utterly unexpected transfer back to MLS...via (of all places!) Toronto FC. We don't know what it all means yet. But it's important, and stunning, and it's another paradigm-rattling twist that leave us all vaguely in awe of what might happen next.

Liviu Bird
Freelance soccer reporter and ASN resident tactician
MLS needs to start developing its youth and stop buying big names from overseas, American or foreign. That will pay off in the long run because then clubs can buy big names and also sell young players for bigger profits. As for Bradley, his ambition of playing at the highest level seems to have gone out the window—a possible Scudetto and Champions League soccer have slipped away. Jurgen Klinsmann talked big about wanting his important players playing at that level, but he didn’t seem to mind when Clint Dempsey returned. What will his reaction be to Bradley?

Graham Ruthven
Freelance soccer writer
There was a time when it felt like MLS only existed to serve the USMNT. I suppose it can be taken as a measure of the league's development that now it's fulfilling it's own ambitions independent of the USMNT, and maybe even crossing the USMNT in this case. Michael Bradley is an exceptional signing for TFC. You know what you'll get from him wherever he goes, he's consistent. That's why I'm not worried about his USMNT prospects now that he's moved to MLS. Plus, you can't really complain that MLS isn't signing good enough players then moan 'oh, well maybe not those players' when they do sign better players.

Travis Clark
Staff writer, TopDrawerSoccer.com
I don't like Bradley's move from the perspective of wanting the best American players to be playing at the highest level possible. If you want to beat the best you've got to play against the best. But I get it. With the reported salary, chance to collect a percentage of a significant transfer fee, provide stability for himself and his family, how can he say no? A player's window to maximize his value is limited, so cashing in on a chance like this is a no brainer.

Blake Thomsen
Contributor, American Soccer Now
The holy midfield trinity of Miralem Pjanic, Kevin Strootman, and Danielle de Rossi isn’t breaking up anytime soon, so it wasn’t a bad idea for Bradley to leave Roma. But Toronto FC? It’s beyond shocking, but it shouldn’t have too big of an impact on his level of play leading up to Brazil. Still searching for a silver lining? The move could help Bradley rediscover his curiously absent goal-scoring form. Incredibly, he has only scored five professional goals since the 2011 Gold Cup final. He’ll almost certainly improve upon that in Toronto—whether that carries over to Brazil is another question.

Josh Deaver
Contributor, American Soccer Now
Rabble, rabble, rabble. Does it suck Michael Bradley will no longer be competing in a top-tier European league? Yeah. Is it an apocalyptic event for U.S. Soccer? Hardly. Despite a change of scenery, Bradley will not all of sudden cease to be arguably the top player in the CONCACAF region, nor will he lose his value in the national team setup. Looking at it from the perspective of MLS, it’s yet another move in a gradual crawl toward the stated goal of being a top global league by decades end. If this deal can help facilitate that goal in any way it may be worth considerably more than the fortunes of an individual player.

Daryl Grove
Co-host, Total Soccer Show
I really believed that one day we’d see Michael Bradley bossing the midfield for a big team in the Champions League. So I’ll always wonder what might have been. But, short-term at least, this is great news for the U.S. national team. Bradley gets a nice little hibernation followed by plenty of pre-World Cup playing time. His skills will not diminish by June 2014. And if an American with a young child wants to stop moving around, settle in a great North American city, and get a 600% pay raise, then who am I to tell him he’s wrong?

Brendan Doherty
Freelance soccer writer
Bradley will play more soccer. Bradley will make more money. MLS is better with Bradley. The point that remains in contention is whether this impedes the national team. Any claims of the move stunting the development of a 9-year professional are sophomoric. Playing 90 minutes a week in MLS will allow Bradley to stay in shape, barring any major injury. The difficult question to answer is “will consistent playing time in MLS allow Bradley to maintain/achieve the sharpness and preparation that's necessary to excel at the global stage?” Who knows?

Brian Sciaretta
Freelance soccer writer, ASN Contributing Editor
My opinion is decidedly mixed. I recognize the importance of having top American players push themselves in the best leagues but I also understand that having a strong MLS is imperative in raising the overall quality of American soccer. It won’t have much of an effect on the 2014 World Cup since Bradley won’t forget how to play at a high level overnight. You have to admire MLS's ambition and realize that Don Garber is serious in his vision of having it eventually become a top-tier league. If Garber is successful, American soccer will be much better in the long run.
[Editor's note: Brian's longer analysis on the Michael Bradley situation will post on ASN later today.]

Jon Arnold
Editor, Goal USA
Sports fans often rush to praise a move as "good" or decry it as "bad," but things are rarely that easy to categorize. Michael Bradley's rumored move to Toronto FC is certainly far more nuanced than that. Would he have played regularly at Roma? Were there "Big Four" European teams in for him where he would've fit? We don't know. In the end, Michael Bradley does what's best for Michael Bradley. While that's not always in line with what's best for the U.S. national team, chances are it won't be too far off, especially in a World Cup year.

OK, your turn. Tell us what you think, folks.

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