Midfielder Michael Bradley broke into professional soccer with the then-MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) in 2004 as a 16 year old. He’s been breaking new ground ever since.
It didn’t take long before Europe’s prestigious leagues came calling.
By 2006, Bradley — whose father, Bob, is a former U.S. men’s national team coach — had found his way to Heerenveen in the Netherlands’ top division, Eredivisie.
Bradley also played in Germany’s Bundesliga and had a brief trial with Aston Villa in the English Premier League.
Eventually, he landed in Italy’s Serie A, appearing in 35 games with Chievo in 2011-12 before becoming the first U.S.-born player in Roma’s 86-year history.
“I came to Europe when I was young,” Bradley said. “It had always been my dream to play at the highest level and play with the biggest clubs in Europe. To have the opportunity to come to Roma and represent this city and this club, it’s something you work for and dream of. I’m enjoying every moment. It’s everything I’d hoped for, everything I expected and more.”
Bradley, who is only the third U.S. soccer player in Serie A history, played 30 matches last season with Roma.
While the Giallorossi wound up a disappointing sixth in the regular season, Bradley and company finished the campaign on a high note, reaching the Coppa Italia final.
Certainly, the loss to intercity rival Lazio in the Rome Derby with a berth in the Europa League at stake stung, but it provides Roma something positive to build off of moving into the 2013-14 season.
“This is a club with a huge following and a passionate, emotional group of supporters,” Bradley said. “When things are going well and the team is winning, there’s such an excitement, such a buzz around the team. On the flip side, when things don’t go well, there’s pressure and the expectation that things improve immediately. That’s always going to be true when you play in Europe and play at the highest level.”
Bradley isn’t immune to the pressure, but he’s used to it and remains excited for the future with Serie A’s first American-owned club.
“I’ve been in Europe since I was 17 or 18 years old,” he said. “From the first day me and my family got to Rome, we have felt at home and felt very welcome. Wherever you are in the world, if you can find a house and have your family — your wife (Amanda) and your son (Luca) — with you, you can be happy anywhere when you put all those things in place.”
Now, Bradley’s journey brings him to Kansas City, where Roma will challenge the best from Major League Soccer in the MLS All-Star Game.
He’s played at Sporting Kansas City’s iconic, world-class venue before with the U.S. men’s national team. He came away impressed and suspects his teammates will be equally pleased by what they discover in America’s heartland.
“Without a doubt, it’s one of the best stadiums in the country when you talk about a venue built for soccer,” Bradley said. “The fans are close to the field and, especially when we’ve played there with the national team, it created a real home-team advantage. Everybody here (from Roma) will be quite surprised when they see the stadium.”
Of course, the game is the main attraction and Bradley’s eager to help Roma begin to build off its late-season surge in an early preseason test.
“I’m very excited,” Bradley said. “The MLS All-Star Game in the last few years has really become a spectacle for soccer in the United States. For me as an American playing for Roma, to have the opportunity to be able to come back and play in this game, it’s a great opportunity and it’s exciting. It’s something I think everybody is looking forward to.”