photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Michael Bradley isn't a fan of missing games, but that's exactly what he had to do in September in order to sort a future that he is currently enjoying.
Having been called into every U.S. men's national team camp this year aside from January's, Bradley was omitted from Jurgen Klinsmann's roster for a pair of friendlies last month. Rather than join the new U.S. head coach for his first elongated camp, Bradley needed to resolve things at the club level after having fallen out of favor with Borussia Moenchengladbach.
While it was admittedly tough for Bradley to miss the matches against Costa Rica and Belgium, both of which were 1-0 losses, the midfielder knew it needed to be done so that he could finalize a deal with Italian club Chievo Verona.
"You never want to miss a game," said Bradley, who is already in the process of learning Italian. "But having said that it was still, in the long run, important for me to get things sorted out in Italy, and make sure the paperwork went through and things on that end were all squared away."
Bradley completed the move at the end of August, and it took him less than three weeks to settle in. He made his Chievo debut on Sept. 18, coming off the bench and playing 18 minutes in a 2-1 loss to Parma.
Since then, Bradley has started and gone the distance in all three of Chievo's league matches. The club won twice and tied once in those games.
"It's been a good change for me; it's a really good league, it's a good club," said Bradley. "Been there now for a good month and just being in training every day, and now obviously the last stretch gotten myself a few games. After the first two games where (the team) had only one point, after that to come away with some good results and start to move ourselves up the table, it's been good."
Things at Moenchengladbach may not have ended as well as he would have liked, with the club demoting him to the bench back in January. That ultimately led to him being loaned out to Aston Villa for the second half of the season, though a full transfer to the English team failed to materialize.
Regardless of how things with the German club ended, Bradley still looks back at his years there as positive, knowing that they helped him develop into the player he is today.
"It was good for me. After playing in Holland (with SC Heerenveen), it got to the point where I needed a new challenge, a step up, and the time leading into the World Cup I had the opportunity to play regularly for a good club in a big league," said Bradley. "Just week in and week out, getting games just meant that I was able to keep myself sharp for the national team and the qualifiers and then eventually for the World Cup."
Bradley hasn't been the only member of his family on the move recently. His father, former U.S. head coach Bob Bradley, signed on to coach Egypt last month, and Michael admits he is excited for his father's new challenge.
Like his father, Michael Bradley has a new World Cup cycle in front of him. That means that getting in games every week with Chievo is a task that Bradley will have to accomplish in order to remain in the conversation for a starting spot on the U.S. team.
That task is also one that Bradley needed after three years with Moenchengladbach.
"Like a lot of things," said Bradley, "there comes a time when you need a new challenge and you need a fresh start."