Michael Bradley, the leader of the US Men’s National Team, has returned to Major League Soccer from Europe. Another step in the evolution of a player who first broke into professional soccer at the age of 16, and who now is, to many, the most important player for the U.S.

“When you first come into the national team … you’re trying to prove yourself to the other guys, the coaches, to anybody who’s watching that you are somebody that should be on the field, that needs to play,” Bradley told Charlie Stillitano and Ray Hudson on The Football Show Thursday morning on SiriusXM FC.

Over time as you’re then able to establish that, then it’s normal that now you’re trying to take more and more on. You’re trying to put more responsibility on your shoulders. You’re trying to do as much as you can on the field and off the field to help the team be successful.

For a player who speaks so much of team success, Bradley has done more in his 10 years as a pro than most ever dream. He’s played in Germany’s Bundesliga for Borussia Monchengladbach – a club that Bradley said, “as far as tradition and as far as its fan base, it’s probably the third-biggest club in Germany behind Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund” – in England for Premier League side, Aston Villa, and to his most recent club, AS Roma in Italy’s top flight league, the Serie A.

“When you grow up playing in the park or playing in your backyard, playing in the big occasions, when everyone is watching, playing when the lights are on brightest, those are the things you dream about,” Bradley said.

Now he will be the face of a club – Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC – if not an entire league.

“Coming to Toronto, in some ways, the pressure is probably bigger than it’s ever been [for me], because everybody’s going to be watching us this year to see if we can turn this thing around,” Bradley said. “I realize that I’m going to have to play a big part of that. That challenge excites me and motivates me a lot.”

The contract has been signed, the move official. So why did Bradley decide to play in Major League Soccer during the prime of his playing career, instead of staying in Europe?

I loved my time at Roma, really. I enjoyed every second of it. It’s a club that is easy to love and I [had] hoped to be there for a long time. When I got there, the goal in mind was to be there and be a big part of that club moving forward.

Bradley knew it was good for him to play at Roma, where he started 24 games in the Serie A season. But the team struggled, going 18-8-12.

Rudi Garcia then came aboard, and has led the team to second place in the Serie A so far this season with a 15-5-1 record. What’s been good for the team as a whole hasn’t been good for Bradley, though.

As players, we can all sense this stuff. From the beginning of preseason, I had a feeling of what it would be like for me this year. For this coach, I was going to be a little bit farther down the pecking order.

Bradley stuck it out for the start of the season.

There were some chances to leave right away in the summer, and at the end I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t because had I left after just the year, I think it would’ve been something that I always regretted in the sense of wondering, “What if?”

As a player for me that was hard to come to grips with, hard to understand, and really, hard to agree with. I’ll never be one who’s going to cause a scene and cause problems inside the team because that’s not who I am. At a certain point now, especially with a World Cup at the end of the season, but more than anything, just for who I am as a person, I felt like I needed to be somewhere I was going to be challenged in all ways, as a person and a player to really give a lot. To put a lot of responsibility on my shoulders for the success of the team.

Toronto hasn’t finished better than 10th place in MLS in their seven years, and have yet to make the playoffs. Bradley is set to turn things around, and he’s ready for the long haul.

The challenge is now building something. The challenge of trying to help a club that hasn’t done particularly well start to have some real success, not just for a year or two, but in the long run. For me to play a big part in that, that’s a challenge that’s really really exciting to me.

Catch the top players in America on SiriusXM FC, channel 94 and follow the channel on Twitter @SiriusXMFC.

For a free 30-day trial, click here http://bit.ly/1hLC8LU.

Powered by WordPress.com VIP