Michael Bradley

  • DOB July 31, 1987
  • Age 29
  • Place of birth Princeton, New Jersey
  • POSITION Midfielder
  • HEIGHT 6'2"
  • WEIGHT 175
  • U.S. CAPS 122
  • CLUB Toronto FC
  • Current ASN 100 Rank 7
  • Previous ASN 100 Rank 2
  • Youth Experience U-17, U-18, U-20, U-23
Michael Bradley is an intense man, both in his game and his demeanor. It's a trait that served him well growing up under the watchful eye of former United States men's national team coach Bob Bradley—his father. This temperament also helped him succeed in the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy, as well as with the American national team, but it makes him hard to love. Bradley rarely opens up off the field, preferring to let his tactical acumen, phenomenal work rate, increasingly deft passing, and goal-scoring ability do the talking. He rarely smiles, but he rarely needs to. And he knows it: "What I choose to focus my energy and concentration on is what am I all about as a player and as a person and what can I do to make myself the best possible player and what can I do to help whatever team I'm on win," he told in June 2012.

Bradley signed a Project-40 contract when he was just 16. The Bob Bradley–coached New York/New Jersey Metrostars drafted him with the 36th pick in the 2004 SuperDraft, and the first cries of nepotism soon followed. Just two seasons later, however, Bradley was sold to the Dutch side SC Heerenveen, where he scored 16 goals in the Eredivisie and 20 in all competitions during the 2007-2008 season—breaking Brian McBride's record for goals by an American in Europe.

As he's shown both with the U.S.—he debuted in 2006—and on Borussia Monchengladbach, Chievo, and AS Roma, Bradley's best position is not necessarily in attack. The player controls the midfield. He sees the game remarkably well (that coach's son thing coming through) and uses his understanding to position himself smartly. Bradley isn't afraid to give a hard challenge—yellow cards were a problem early in his career, although less so recently—and he's growing more adept at distributing once he wins a challenge. (Bradley is one of the best long-distance chippers on the American team.)

Bradley thrived for the Stars and Stripes under his father, playing a key role in virtually every major match, but he couldn't escape some of the inevitable calls of nepotism. Early in the Jurgen Klinsmann era, however, Bradley has silenced most reasonable critics, establishing himself as a starter in the American midfield. Part of the change is the fact that a season with Chievo in Serie A improved Bradley's game, and his play at Roma has been strong as well. Part of it is him growing up and taking a leadership role. And part of it is the freedom he no doubt feels to express himself with Bob gone. Add the parts up, and Bradley is the midfield general of the present and also the future.

His move to Toronto is an interesting wrinkle and might provide a barometer on MLS' progress. With the Americans' best player (and regular ASN 100 No. 1) now playing in the domestic league, will the Stars and Stripes suffer? He didn't have the best showing in Brazil and he's likely to use that to drive him to elevate his game during the new cycle.—NOAH DAVIS

Klinsmann on Bradley:
"I think he took a big step over the last year. That move to Italy helped him tremendously. He learned a lot on the tactical side of the game, but he also, his personality, his maturing development, made a big step. He's on his way to becoming one of the leaders in this group. He's on a very good path." (June 2012)

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