Photo credit: AS Roma
For most American soccer fans the news is already out there: Michael Bradley will be joining the legendary Italian club AS Roma. With this momentous news is a new beginning for US Soccer and what it means to be an American player in the world stage. It also means that the US is catching up to Mexico in sealing blockbuster moves in Europe.
A couple of years ago, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez completed a move to world superpower Manchester United and a gulf began to open between Americans and Mexicans in world soccer. True, the developmental teams have been sensational for Mexico: U17 and U20 world titles and a chance at gold at this summer's Olympics. The US, however, failed to progress to either one of the latter two events. Still, some of the older stars, and in some cases younger, have begun to make splashes in the European market: Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Dempsey (Fulham), Edu (Rangers), Danny Williams and Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim).
Of the above, the more impressive ones are Edu and Altidore. And yes, Rangers is now a thing of the past so Maurice, Bedoya and Bocanegra will need new homes soon. Altidore, however, made a dream move to Holland to play for a former champion with a storied developmental structure. For Clint Dempsey, his 17 league goals and 23 in all competitions, compounded with an end to his contract next year, means another blockbuster move might be on tap for US Soccer. The leading candidate at the moment is Liverpool.
But back to Bradley. Michael, the son of former US coach Bob Bradley, has had a steady rise through the world of soccer. From a modest start as a 16-year old at the New York/New Jersey Metrostars to a record-setting stay at Heerenveen of the Dutch Eridivisie (17 goals in one season) to Bundesliga outfit Borussia Moenchengladbach, and finally to Chievo Verona of the Serie A. Once in Italy, his work ethic and on-field value sky rocketed and he attracted the attention of major Italian clubs, including AS Roma.
The fact that Michael Bradley is only 24 further elucidates the significance of his transfer to the Eternal City. This is, to date, the biggest move by any US player since Onyewu's ill-fated time at AC Milan. And by "biggest" we mean in significance and not in price. Altidore will take the price tag with his $10 million transfer to Villarreal. This is Roma, three-time champions of the Serie A, a frequent Champions League team and the home of players like Francesco Totti, Gabriel Heinze, and Daniele De Rossi.
So yes, in a way, the US is catching up to Mexico in its proliferation of well-respected talent. Where Dempsey ends up next will only further enhance this statement. After this, players like Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams, Terrence Boyd and other, younger stars may get to shine abroad. And with that the gulf in talent between Mexico and the United States will begin to close again.