Posted February 17, 2014

Michael Bradley: Americans still ‘have to fight for respect’ in Europe

A.S. Roma, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Jurgen Klinsmann, Michael Bradley, MLS, Toronto FC, U.S. men's national team, U.S. Soccer
Michael Bradley

Michael Bradley has returned to MLS with Toronto FC after eight years in Europe. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

HARRISON, N.J. –  Before his return to Major League Soccer this offseason to play for Toronto FC, Michael Bradley was what has become more and more of an anomaly: an American playing top-flight soccer for a top-level club in Europe. But with standout players like Bradley and Clint Dempsey returning to play domestically in the last year, prominent Americans are an increasingly unusual sight in European soccer today.

With that as the backdrop, U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann recently expressed his desire for more American players to participate in UEFA Champions League competition, going as far as to tell ESPN that Americans lacked the “belief” it took to compete at the highest club level.

While Bradley’s belief in his abilities has rarely been questioned anywhere, the U.S. midfielder does think there is a perception issue when it comes to Americans overseas.

“There’s no doubt that as Americans we continue to have to fight for respect,” Bradley said on Monday, speaking at Red Bull Arena as part of MLS media and marketing tour in the build-up to the 2014 season. “We have to continue to show that we have teams and players who can play at the highest level.”

This year, no Americans are competing in the knockout stage of the Champions League, with Jermaine Jones departing Schalke prior to the German club’s tangle with Real Madrid. And with many of the best Americans playing in North America, that trend doesn’t look to change anytime soon.

“You would have hoped that now what’s gone on with Major League Soccer, with the national team or whether it’s certain individuals over the past 10 to 15 or 20 years would have done more for us,” Bradley said. “But the reality is at the moment there is still a little bit of a feeling that if you can have an American or an Argentine, you’re taking the Argentine. Some people can look at that as feeling sorry for yourself, but that’s the reality.”

CREDITOR: Bradley’s TFC debut moved to national broadcast in USA

Bradley also noted the vast improvement in quality of play for the MLS since he last played in the league over eight years ago. But even with domestic club competition better than ever, he said that American players still have a responsibility to represent themselves well around the world.

“For every guy who steps on the field for the national team, for every guy who goes to Europe or for every person who steps on the field in Major League Soccer, it’s up to us to continue to show and prove that we have players and teams that can play at the highest level,” Bradley said.

10 comments
villafan
villafan

I think the U.S. is beating itself up for no reason. Even in England average foreigners are chosen over comparable homegrown talent. You are doing fine reputation and results wise.

hydramalice
hydramalice

This has been an eye opener since the Copa Libertadores rumors popped up for the last time; MLS teams lack the will to face strong teams. While the product is getting better, CONCACAF is clearly one of the weakest confederations in the world. The WCQ can be easily won by winning TWO games like Mexico.


Back to the topic:


When the Copa Libertadores rumor popped back up and MLS did interviews with some players about if it would happen, the first thing they said is "it should not happen because we aren't in that level yet." I understand some statements saying they need to win their own Championship League before thinking about doing that, but the reason why Mexican teams are better than American teams because they put themselves in a competition where the odds are against them. There's not ONE American player that wants to fight to be the best in the World. Like Other countries in Americas (Brazil, Argentina, ect) they was trained in an competitive league and confederation (CONMEBOL). They also had their young players play in futsol and start in the senior starting line ups in some to most games. MLS just stick their youth in the reserves and hope having them train ONLY with the senior squad would be good enough. Some teams loan their players to the 2nd or 3rd division teams for playing time. THAT IS NOT HOW YOU DEVELOP NEW PLAYERS!!!!

DSmithy3211
DSmithy3211

Interesting (ironic, even?) that Bradley is the one complaining about the American perception issue, when he is the one who moved back to MLS from Roma at the supposed peak of his career. 


I doubt Claudio Reyna, Tom Dooley or Eric Wynalda ever suffered from a supposed perception issue. 

Askantwi
Askantwi

...If you can pick between American and an Argentine, it will be an Argentine. Of course. Another reality is that picking between  American and a Ghanaian, the european clubs will always pick a Ghanaian. This is not a perception issue. Its about talents and skill.

usamnt
usamnt

He can't admit this now, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if part of his thinking is to come back and represent MLS, play through another WC cycle, and in 2018, at 30 years old, go back to Europe. He'll also be captain of the USA at that point. I think he gets it in 2016.

stancollins
stancollins

@DSmithy3211   Two of those guys disagree with you.  The other is irrelevant, since he lived his whole life in Germany up through age 30.

DSmithy3211
DSmithy3211

@Askantwi  That's vastly oversimplifying it.  There's a whole slew of reasons to choose one over the other, even assuming talent and skill are equal.


A BPL team will tend to choose a Portuguese or Danish player over an American player, because the EU-based player does not require a work permit.


In years in which the Africa Cup of Nations is played, African players are generally disfavored (all things equal) because they will be missing for several weeks in January on national team duty (and possibly weeks thereafter due to injury and the like).


If they are good enough to play for major European teams, American players also tend also to play for USMNT. This is inherently a bad thing; during every national team break in the international football calendar, American players have to fly from Europe across 6-7 time zones to places like San Pedro Sula and Guatemala... where they play on horrible pitches in horrible conditions against uber-motivated opponents... only to then fly back to Europe and play in a league game three days later.  This is not a good thing.  This is likely also the reason why the powers-that-be at Bayern Munich, for example, are trying to convince Julian Green NOT to play for USMNT.


Compare that to countries like Argentina: a player at the same level as the likes of Klejstan or Jermaine Jones wouldn't even sniff the Argentine national team, so there's no problem.



RickPotts
RickPotts

@Askantwi  It was implied that players of EQUAL abilities, skills etc. be they American or Argentinian (or Ghanian...) that Euro coaches will not pick the American due to they're extreme Euro snobbery bias towards the US players.

Patokev
Patokev

@usamnt  Maybe if he goes back to play in Sweden or Denmark.