How will MLS move impact Michael Bradley’s World Cup preparations?

January 14th, 2014

LAUDERHILL, Fla. – In the middle of a hectic period destined to alter his professional future, Michael Bradley found a few moments to contact a person keenly interested in his decision to move from AS Roma to Toronto FC: United States coach Jürgen Klinsmann.

Bradley said he reached out to Klinsmann recently to chat about his impending $10 million transfer to MLS and explain why he decided to swap Serie A for MLS at the start of a World Cup year.

“He and I spoke at the end of last week,” Bradley told FOX Soccer in a phone interview after his unveiling in Toronto on Monday. “We had a good conversation. He and I have always had an honest relationship. I wanted to him to hear from me what I was thinking and how I was sizing everything up. It was a good conversation.”

The reasons behind the transfer — a thought process Bradley detailed here yesterday — matter far less than its impact on preparing for the World Cup at this stage. The lingering concerns about regular playing time at Roma ended once he agreed to terms with TFC. Now Bradley must simply use the next few months to hone his fitness and obtain his match sharpness before the delegation departs for Brazil.

MLS will not match the tactical and technical demands usually found in the upper reaches of Serie A, but its exacting and rigorous fare will test Bradley in a different fashion. He must navigate through those requirements with the pressure of an expectant public and the weight of a lucrative deal upon his shoulders. The difficulty of the task and the heap of the responsibility for its success or failure poses a considerable challenge, according to Bradley.

“At the end of the day, Jürgen wants guys who aren’t afraid to take risks, who aren’t afraid to put themselves on the line and challenge themselves to be better players, to take more responsibility, to be better leaders,” Bradley said. “That’s what I’m doing in Toronto.”

Several of his international teammates face the same challenges with their MLS sides. Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez committed their futures to LA Galaxy last year. Clint Dempsey signed in Seattle. Matt Besler and Graham Zusi stayed the course with Sporting Kansas City. Other players — including potential addition Maurice Edu (linked with a Stateside move by ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman on Tuesday) and recent returnee Michael Parkhurst — now see the league as a viable alternative to plying their trade overseas.

Bradley joined that group when he signed for Toronto FC, but he does not speak for it. Nor does anyone else. This trend place MLS in an awkward position (begrudging respect after World Cup success, vicious excoriation in the wake of failure) without capturing the individual reasons why each of those players made their particular choices to cast their lot at home, Bradley said.

“I’ve always said, at the end of the day, everybody has to make their own decisions,” Bradley said. “Even when I went to Europe and people asked, I always said everybody has to decide what is important to them, what challenges them, what motivates them. I think it’s important, still, for guys in the national team to have and have had the experience of playing in Europe. But, at the same time, guys who choose to play in MLS and challenge themselves by taking big roles here, I think that’s just as important.”

It may or may not represent the ideal path in Klinsmann’s estimation, but it is the route Bradley and several of his peers have chosen. They must now find a way to make it work for them as they spend the next few months preparing for their journey to Brazil.

Photo provided by The Associated Press.

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