Although it has been another rocky, inconsistent season for AS Roma since the American takeover last year, an upcoming Coppa Italia final against Lazio and a possible spot in Europe is something to look forward to.
Much credit is due to the signing of 25-year-old Michael Bradley from Chievo Verona in the summer. At first glance, the presence of Bradley can be seen as just an effort to increase Roma’s American fanbase, but those of us who know the qualities of the midfielder would beg to differ.
At the beginning of the season, in the 4-3-3 system employed by coach Zdenek Zeman, a place in the midfield was not easy to attain, especially with the likes of capitan-futuro Daniele De Rossi, Miralem Pjanic and favored homegrown youngster Alessandro Florenzi.
Furthermore, Zeman consistently entrusted the role of registra, or deep-lying playmaker, to the Grecian Panagiotis Tachtsidis, the very position where Bradley thrived at Chievo Verona.
When De Rossi began to fall out with Zeman, Bradley consistently found himself in the starting lineup, adjusting to an augmented box-to-box intermedio role with seeming ease. He left his mark on the first game of the season against Catania with an assist for the equalizer and has since demonstrated his stamina and determination for both defensive and offensive work.
But in Italy, especially at Roma, these attributes alone are not enough. Serie A is a league where tactics reign supreme, where technique and intelligence are prized above all else. But despite this, and even in a squad where the magical touches of Francesco Totti are but an afterthought, Bradley has kept his position through his creativity and on-the-ball control—the very things which attracted him to the capital in the first place.
Bradley continues to find favor with new coach Aurelio Andreazzoli after Zeman was sacked in February. He has started seven of the last 10 games, including the important second leg win over Inter in the Coppa Italia, where his versatility again proved to be his most important asset, able to interchange roles with De Rossi and Pjanic at ease.
Even as Roma continues with its characteristically inconsistent results, in a squad I would consider to be the most talented in Italy, Bradley’s abilities will no doubt continue to soar.
Playing alongside living legends like Totti and upcoming international stars like Erik Lamela, he has yet to reach his full potential. Not only will Roma benefit from his creativity, control and grit in the middle of the field, but his experience in Italy has been, and will continue to be, essential in the success of the USMNT and Bradley’s already successful international career.
To see him play in the Champions League next year would simply add frosting to the cake.
In an interview with La Repubblica (Italian), Bradley asked himself, “Have I worked well? Am I capable of helping the others?” He can be sure to know that he is already answering those questions with every practice and every match, for in his own words, “The field is honest and gives its own verdict.”
Funny fact: His nickname in Rome is “Lex Luthor.” I’m sure we can all guess why.