When he began playing regularly for the United States after the 2006 World Cup, he was simply known as Michael Bradley, the 19 year old only here because he's the coach's son.
But Bob's a smart guy. If his son did not deserve to be there, he would not be there.
After making 30 appearances for the New York/New Jersey Metrostars from 2004 to January 2006, he moved to Dutch side Herenveen, helping the club reach the UEFA Cup and earning himself a look from then US manager Bruce Arena. Bradley missed the final World Cup roster, which was not one of the Americans' best as they bowed out with one point, a tie against future champion Italy, a game which ended 1-1 with Italy getting the ball in the net both times. Bradley remained unknown to the world.
However, he made some noise in the Netherlands. After being used mostly as a reserve in the 2006-07 season, Bradley became a starter for the next campaign. During the 07-08 season, he recorded 20 goals, 16 in the Dutch Eredivisie, the most goals in a single season ever by an American playing first division European football, breaking the great Brian McBride's record.
Bradley almost moved to Birmingham City the next season, but the club failed to remain in the Premier League. He joined Borussia Monchengladbach on a four year deal. In two seasons, Bradley has scored seven goals, the first of these being an equalizer against Bayern Munich in the 81st minute in a 2-2 draw (sounds familiar), in 58 appearances.
Michael has been crucial to the United States midfield the past four years. Since making his debut under Arena and playing mostly under his father, Bradley has played for the Americans 48 times and scored eight goals. His goals have more often than not proved crucial for the Yanks.
At the 2009 Confederations Cup, he scored the second of the three goals the United States needed in a 3-0 victory over Egypt to sneak past Italy into the semifinals, where of course he was crucial to the great upset of the now world champion, Spain. He scored five goals in World Cup 2010 Qualifying, including both goals in a 2-0 victory over rivals Mexico last February and the first goal after the U.S. went down 2-0 to Costa Rica in the final Qualifying match and propelled a comeback for a 2-2 draw, putting the Yanks at the top of the final CONCACAF standings.
Of course, it is Bradley's performance at the recent World Cup Finals that has sparked a frenzy about the player. His presence in the midfield was crucial to the United States' success in their run to the last 16. His greatest moment was the equalizer against Slovenia in the final minutes during a 2 (and really 3) goal comeback. That goal was clearly one of the best of the tournament and showed his talent and composure.
At 22, Michael Bradley is a centerpiece of the American team, whether his father remains coach or not. He will be 26 at the World Cup Finals in 2014 in Brazil. He will be a leader on that team more so than this past tournament. He needs to be ready for that role.
With his recent performances, he has earned quite a bit of attention, most notably from Blackpool, the recently promoted Premier League club after defeating Cardiff City in a playoff. For Bradley to improve even more and to build leadership qualities, a move to Blackpool right now is ideal.
Blackpool are entering the Premier League for the first time. They have a very small roster of unknown players who have never seen the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, or Liverpool before. They will be tested every week and need a strong midfielder who has played regularly against great teams like Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg the way Bradley has.
Which leads to the comment, Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg? Not as challenging as the Big Four (well, maybe Big Three now). True. But then again, that prompts another great reason for Bradley to move. The Bundesliga is now in all honesty the fifth league in Europe. The Premiership is arguably the hardest along with Serie A. Bradley would be challenged regularly and will be facing more the style of players the United States will come up against in their run to the World Cup.
Though not influential to the national team's performance, another thing to consider is the idea of playing regularly against friends such as Tim Howard, Stuart Holden, Clint Dempsey, Jonathan Spector, and, maybe, Landon Donovan. How about when Blackpool plays Fulham, and the possibility that Bob Bradley may be the next Cottager's manager? Like I said, no influence over the U.S. team's performance, but maybe playing the likes of Rooney, Torres, Drogba, Anelka, Fabregas, Arshavin, David Silva, Tevez, and the other big names of the Premier League week in and week out is something to consider. No offense to the Bundesliga, but the only time to get experience against a team made up of World Cup potential players is the two times a year you play Bayern Munich. It's undeniable.
I truly believe Michael Bradley could shine in the Premier League. We have to begin preparing for 2014 now. The Bundesliga just does not seem the best place to begin doing that. A move to England could be exactly what Bradley needs. I think that with the right experience and opposition, Bradley could prove to be the second greatest player in United States history, just behind another player who should be moving to the Premier League this winter.