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Michael Bradley: A Deserving Winner of U.S. Soccer Award

December 19th, 2015 · No Comments · Football, Italy, Landon Donovan, Rome, soccer, World Cup

I have voted for the Futbol de Primera award — formerly the Honda Award — for most of two decades.

The award, voted on by journalists, goes to the U.S. national team player judged to have been the best performer in a calendar year.

Michael Bradley is the winner, for the first time, over Clint Dempsey in a fairly close race. I am pleased the midfielder and captain finished first, and not just because I had him No. 1 on my ballot.

It was time for him to be recognized.

Granted, 2015 was not a good year for U.S. Soccer, aside from a few notable “friendly” victories.

That does not detract from the reality that Bradley was the most dependable U.S. player this year: He nearly always was available and chosen, and he provided the veteran American presence on a U.S. team increasingly represented by foreign nationals.

He took his tally of national-team appearances to 109 as he started and played in 18 of the national team’s 20 matches this year. His 1,668 minutes were 250 more than any other American player.

But he has been doing that sort of thing for a while now, carrying a load of responsibility for clubs and country, first in midfield defense and now in more of an attacking role.

Early in his career, he was the hottest head on the U.S. team. He seemed to be fueled by anger, or perhaps he was just too competitive, but he always seemed on the edge of getting into a fight or being sent off. (He was sent off in the Confederations Cup semifinal in 2009, and missed the final against Brazil.)

There was a bit of talk, early in his career, that he owed some of his playing time to the fact his father, Bob Bradley, the U.S. national team coach from 2006 to 2011, but that didn’t last long. Michael Bradley clearly belonged.

Several European clubs recognized that. He played for Netherlands club Heerenveen for two-plus seasons, moved on to Borussia Monchengladbach for most of three, played a few games on loan with Aston Villa, had a season with Chievo of Italy and one-and-a-half seasons with Roma, before returning to Major League Soccer.

While at Heerenveen he scored 16 goals in a season, breaking Brian McBride’s record (13, for Fulham) for goals in a season by an American in a European first division, a mark later eclipsed by Dempsey, at Fulham.

Bradley is a tough, physical guy but also a very heady player (most sons of coaches are) and very good on restarts; he takes nearly all of them for the national team. He also has leadership qualities which is why coach Jurgen Klinsmann keeps giving him the captain’s armband.

He was named Man of the Match in each of the two big friendly victories in June, over the Netherlands and Germany.

By the end of this year, he pretty clearly was the most accomplished current U.S. player not to have won the Futbol de Primera award, and after finishing second to each of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore in this decade, that oversight has been corrected.

He also is a finalist for the for 2015 U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year Award, along with Dempsey, Brad Guzan, Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin. (I had Yedlin and Guzan 2-3 on my Primera ballot.)

Bradley ought to make it a sweep of the two big awards.



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