Photo by ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
WASHINGTON — Michael Bradley understands the importance of a proper preseason. Develop chemistry, build fitness, round into form — all key, of course.
He is also aware that his preseason carries added significance. After all, it marks the official beginning of a World Cup year. With his sport’s grandest showcase just 10 months away, the AS Roma and U.S. national team midfielder is aware of what’s at stake.
That doesn’t mean Bradley is doing anything differently as he heads into his latest European season. As a player who always keeps the bar high, he is treating this year like he treats every year, with a commitment to be the best player he can be.
“When there’s a World Cup at the end of the season, it’s important for everybody to be playing consistently, to be sharp, to be fit,” Bradley said. “But these are things you want to be about every year, every day, regardless.”
Bradley and his Roma teammates wrapped their three-game preseason tour of the U.S. with a 2-1 loss to Chelsea FC on Saturday at RFK Stadium. Now, the club’s focus turns to its Serie A opener Aug. 25 against newly promoted AS Livorno Calcio.
A season after starting 24 league matches, Bradley is aiming to maintain his starting spot in central midfield and help Roma build off an 18-12-8 campaign that left the club on the outside looking in at the Europa League.
“The idea is always the same,” Bradley said. “The idea is to improve each day. The idea is to take a big role in the team that I’m playing on, which is Roma. The idea is to be on the field as much as possible to help Roma win.”
Although second-half goals from Frank Lampard and Romelu Lukaku gave Chelsea the victory Saturday, the match was the only loss of a Roma tour that also included a 3-1 win over the MLS All-Stars and a 4-1 triumph against Toronto FC.
“I think we’ve shown, really from the first time we’ve stepped on the field as a group this year, that we want to play well, we want to win,” Bradley said. “It’s important to develop this winning mentality, this idea that every time you step on the field there’s confidence in the team.”
It’s been a busy summer for Bradley, who started four games for the U.S. national team in June. In fact, the 26-year-old had just 43 days between starting the Americans’ World Cup qualifying win over Honduras and kicking off preseason for Roma with the MLS All-Star Game.
Against Chelsea, Bradley logged the full 90 minutes while being deployed in an interchange-heavy midfield trio also featuring Kevin Strootman and Alessandro Florenzi — an encouraging sign for the U.S. that Bradley is in good standing heading into this crucial year.
As Bradley notes, if he’s helping Roma rack up points in Serie A, success on the international level won’t be far behind.
“When you’re able to do all of these things, it comes together in a way that you’re improving as a player,” Bradley said. “Obviously then, when you step on the field for the national team, what you can give to that team continues to grow as well.”