Michael Bradley is proving there’s more about his game than his name. Bradley will go down in U.S. soccer history as one of the best midfielders to play. And Bradley’s chipping of the keeper in Mexico City won’t be forgotten.
It’s another heated U.S.-Mexico match — a World Cup qualifier in Columbus, in February 2009, before a typically crazed crowd — and as usual, there’s a flash point. U.S. keeper Tim Howard rises to grab a ball that floats in front of the six-yard box, and as he does he’s kicked in the leg by Mexico’s Rafael Marquez — a flagrant red card. In a flash, American midfielder Michael Bradley has sprinted to the fallen Marquez to loom over him. Just as suddenly, U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra arrives to give his younger teammate a quick, hard shove. He does this reflexively, as if he’s done it before.
Which he has. When Michael Bradley is on the field, this kind of thing happens. “Probably a hundred times a game,” says Bradley. “I’ll want to have a word with the ref, or whoever, and then … ” And then Bocanegra or Howard or Landon Donovan or some combination of Yanks has to protect Bradley from his passion. They will intercede between their teammate and his new best enemy and issue a simple command: “Michael, enough!”
Unfortunately, “enough” isn’t a word Bradley understands. About matters of soccer, he is never satisfied. In his short career, the 22-year-old has already pushed the boundaries of what’s possible for a U.S. field player. At 17, less than two years after becoming one of the youngest draftees in the history of MLS, Bradley played in 33 games for the MetroStars and scored the goal that clinched the playoffs.
At 20, two years after becoming the youngest MLS player sold to Europe, he scored 21 goals for Heerenveen of the Dutch league, most ever by a Yank in a European first division. Now he anchors the midfield for Germany’s Borussia Mönchengladbach, having helped the club successfully fend off relegation in the Bundesliga a year ago.
Here’s Bradley talking about growing up in Chicago: