Although Michael Bradley has been hurt for much of the early going in the 2013-14 Serie A campaign, his experiences in Italy should pay big dividends for the U.S. men's national soccer team at the 2014 World Cup next summer in Brazil.
He's playing in one of the most tactical leagues in the world
While many soccer pundits would place the English Premier League, the Bundesliga and La Liga ahead of Serie A in terms of athleticism, physicality or big-name players, many would also recognize the Italian league as one of the leaders in tactical football.
Few leagues, if any, in the world see such a diverse arrangement of formations as can be seen in a week-to-week basis in Italy. Just as Spanish football is known for the development of tiki-taka and the Dutch for the concept of "total football," Italy is the home to Catenaccio—a style favoring an organized, defensive approach to the game.
The more experience Bradley gets in Italy, the better, as the teams the U.S. will face in the World Cup will likely be as tactically varied as what he sees on a week-to-week basis in Serie A.
He's the only American currently playing on a top-4 team in Europe
As much as American fans revel in the success of players like Sacha Kljestan in Belgium, Jozy Altidore last season in the Eredivisie, Clint Dempsey during his glory days at Fulham or Tim Howard and Brad Guzan currently in the English Premier League, it is still a rarity for an American to be playing for a top-four team in one of the top four European leagues.
Tim Howard, Kenny Cooper and Jonathan Spector all had stints at Manchester United, and Jermaine Jones plays regularly for Schalke, but Bradley is the only current American-raised product playing in Europe for a top team in a top league.
When the U.S. faces the seeded team in its group in Brazil (and maybe even one of the unseeded teams in the Netherlands, England, Portugal, Italy or France), they will need every ounce of experience and ability they can muster. Bradley, having played week in and week out against some of the best competition in the world, will be a player the U.S. will rely on in those difficult games.
He's playing with some of the best midfielders in the world
Many USMNT fans are concerned with Bradley's lack of playing time this season with Roma (despite the fact he has been injured) and with some justification. Bradley is competing for time with Miralem Pjanic, Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman in the Roma midfield, who have led their team to the top spot in Serie A with a 10-0-0 record in 2013-14.
However, that should be a positive as Bradley will need to keep his game at a top level every day in training to earn time on the field. Between instances of squad rotation, injuries and cup games, Bradley should still get enough time to stay fit and in form—Bradley’s fitness level is world-class—and his experiences at Roma may even have the added benefit of making sure he is fresh and not suffering from "tired legs" this summer.
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