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Jan 092014

With Michael Bradley set to complete a $10 million move from Serie A’s AS Roma to MLS’s Toronto FC, we decided this was the ideal time to try something new. Sean Maslin and Adam Uthe exchanged several emails on Thursday once news of the deal had been confirmed. Here’s the full transcript completely unedited.


Adam Uthe


It seems we jumped the gun on our North American podcast a week early!

Your Bill Simmons quip has given me an idea that I think would be worth trying. Not sure if you actually read him, but he’s done a couple email exchanges with Malcolm Gladwell and just posted the transcript.

If you’re interested in doing so re: this Michael Bradley move, feel free to kick things off! (If not, I totally get it…just figured this would be a good way to avoid duplicate posts)

Sean Maslin


Sounds like an awesome idea. I have checked out a few of those- they are pretty damn good.
I just don’t understand this move for Bradley. I mean, I understand that no one will offer him a higher salary, but what’s the rush? Why now? He wasn’t receiving a great deal of time with A.S. Roma but it is not like he was Maurice Edu stuck in Stoke purgatory. He had an opportunity to play in the Champions League next year and now is going to be with a team that is at best a fourth place team.
I would imagine that Klinsmann is none too pleased with this situation…
I’ve been dying to hear what Klinsmann has to say about this. I’m a little surprised someone hasn’t found a way to get a microphone in front of him by now.
I agree that it’s completely baffling. If the rumors out there are true, there were clubs like Tottenham, Werder Bremen, and Wolfsburg waiting to pounce. Who knows if they would’ve paid him what Toronto are offering, but least he’d still be challenging himself. Everyone loves to describe Bradley as “driven”, but if that were 100% true he wouldn’t be making this move. I’m not going to speculate about what motivated him to make this move, but it does raise a lot of questions. Perhaps we’ll learn more whenever he’s introduced.
Going back to Klinsmann though, are you in the “USMNT IS NOW DOOMED!” camp? Or do you think he’ll maintain his form and be ready to lead the Stars & Stripes come June?



I would hate to do a stereotype, but I hope he is yelling in a very angry German voice. He can’t see this as anything more than a slap in the face, right? What has been the one thing that he has wanted his players to do since day one? To go to bigger clubs and work towards earning their spots. Any one of those clubs would have been either a lateral or just a small step back in his career. Going to Toronto is taking a huge step back for his career. Look at the names that have come and went with that team. Heck, I am surprised Jurgen didn’t give him a call and tell him what a mess that is.
As for the United States, I don’t think it is a great move for Brazil but I don’t think it is a bad move. My main concern with him is health and fitness. With Roma, from what I understand, they have one of the top strength and conditioning programs in all of Europe. Plus you know that every practice is a dogfight. With TFC, based off of how the organization is run, I have my doubts that he is going to get that same level of performance. So I think with his performance being a bit off, I do think it will affect the team.
The one thing that worries me a bit for the United States is normally moves like this happen after the World Cup. You put in a solid effort with the club team, do well at the World Cup, then get paid. What incentive is there for him do well now, other than avenge his father’s defeat?
As a Crew fan, the supposed rivals to Toronto F.C. (can we call them rivals?) does this presumed Bradley-Defoe partnership strike fear in you?  I would imagine Ryan Nelsen is now under immense pressure. And as we have seen with the Maple Leafs, Toronto fans are kind of nuts.
I think the thing that bothers me the most is this narrative being put out there by fans and the MLS media that this is a huge deal that will change the face of MLS. How do we know this? Why is it that after 20 years we are still looking for a savior for our league?
If anyone ever broke the “loud, angry German” stereotype it’s Klinsmann! But it seems we’ll have to wait on baited breath for his comments on the move.

You make a good point about conditioning. He’s going from mid-season, day-to-day training to preseason training in a very short amount of time. Suddenly he finds himself unable to get actual game conditioning until the season starts in March. I’m not necessarily convinced his actual abilities will take a huge hit. His job as a holding central midfielder is pretty straightforward, although he won’t be facing “world class” talent/tactics while playing in MLS, so he won’t exactly be “prepared” for, say, the Germans’ first team come June.


I do agree that the spotlight has been cranked up on Ryan Nelsen, but more so the entire organization. MLS is a league designed to give bad teams a chance to turn their fortunes around in 1-2 seasons. Not only will they be expected to make the playoffs, but now they’re up their with Seattle where the expectations are really about winning MLS Cup and nothing else. It’s great for those crazy fans who have put up with a lot of crap from Day 1, but now it’s “MLS Cup or Bust!”. Hell, I’d say once they get back into the CONCACAF Champions League (not getting back in at the end of this upcoming season is simply incomprehensible) they should be the ones that MLS fans pin their hopes on.


As to whether or not they’ll actually meet said expectations, I have no clue. We’ve seen both LA and New York throw their financial weight around and build “Superclubs” with very mixed results. There’s simply no way to tell, especially given the “1 game, winner take all” mentality of the MLS Cup playoffs. I do think they’ll make the playoffs, but after that who knows…


What concerns me more than anything else at this point is how this move affects aspiring young American soccer players going forward. Is the goal to now become the next big American DP? Contrary to what the MLS hype machine will tell us in the coming weeks, Bradley didn’t suddenly become this great player who got paid because he worked his way up through the ranks in America; he did so via Europe. So who’s the next great player who will inspire young Americans to push themselves to become the Next Big Thing? Terrance Boyd over in Austria? Maybe Marc Pelosi at Liverpool? 13 year old Barca youth signing Ben Lederman? I have no idea, but as many have pointed out: What’s good for MLS isn’t always good for the USMNT.


You hit the nail on the head with the “Superclub” notion. What astounds me with the General Managers in this league is that so many teams are looking to be the next Los Angeles Galaxy. Everyone sees Keane and Donovan, and Beckham from a few years ago. But no one looks at how good those role players were on the championship teams. Bruce Arena is too smart to realize that he can’t rely on two -three superstar players. You need players to fit in certain spots. You need to develop young, inexpensive players that are willing to plug holes and purchase players that are willing to cede statistics for the team because the goals are going to your superstars. What was the one major difference between last year’s L.A. Galaxy team and the 2010 and 2011 versions. It wasn’t Beckham, it was Mike Magee. Look at guys like Gyassi Zardes, Juninho, A.J. Delagarza, Sean Franklin. Not exactly household names but solid players.
To me the question is not really what Bradley can do, but what can Toronto put around him. They can tout Jermaine Defoe as being this great signing but when was the last time he was really that good? 0 goals last year for Tottenham. He has basically been a Europa League player for the past few seasons and not a good one at that. Who is going to be their goalkeeper?
Here is my hope for who will be the next big thing: no one. Look at the people that have been given that label and who has actually been able to live up to it. Reyna? Was good, but not great. Mathis? No. Adu? No. Eddie Johnson? No. The pressure caused Landon Donovan to head to Cambodia of all places.  Then look at the people who have gone to Europe quietly and been able to build a career. McBride? Legend at Fulham. John O’Brien? Good career at Ajax cut short by injury. Dempsey? Was basically a nobody at first, busted his ass at Fulham, and nearly won them the Europa League. Kasey Keller, Roy Wegerle, Earnie Stewart, Tim Howard also come to mind.
If I am Marc Pelosi or Gedion Zelalem (who looks like he will be getting a call up to Arsenal soon) or Julian Green I would continue to keep the low profile and not be given that distinction. The MLS/USMNT hype machine I think can be a very detrimental thing to young players.
The MLS/USMNT thing worries me. While I think it was good for when the league started, they have kind of out-grown each other. In some aspects it still has some value, especially with youth development. But let me ask you: why does MLS on their website have an Americans Abroad article? Why should they care what Tim Ream is doing in Bolton? He is not an MLS player. Do you think the Bundesliga keeps track of what Klose is doing at Lazio? No.
Here is a question for you because this next big thing argument has me thinking: If there is going to be a next big thing, why can’t it be a goalkeeper or a defender? It seems like this distinction always goes to an attacker/attack-minded midfielder. But let’s take a look at someone like Sean Johnson or Brad Guzan. How many amazing saves have they made in the past year? Or what about an Omar Gonzalez?
You make some excellent points about the best US players of late coming from Europe. It’s actually quite revealing when you list them all out like that. Unfortunately MLS will tout those players as “success stories” because they spent a very brief period with an MLS team at the beginning of their careers. Michael Bradley played less than 1 full season with New York but don’t think that’s going to stop the “going back to his roots” storylines.

I’m with you on the ills of MLS’s home website. They’ll link to just about anywhere if it means sharing a story that can be loosely tied back to them. It’s actually very sad and it’s something that I can sways a lot of casual fans on the fence about them. If they took themselves seriously and kept it strictly as a source of news and stats they might be surprised to see how many new “converts’ they’d get.


I see what you’re saying about always touting an attacking player, but I think that’s more of a very recent trend. For the longest time the only Americans over in Europe worth touting were goalkeepers and center backs; I think of guys like Keller, Howard, Bocanegra, Onyewu, and Cherundolo. It’s somewhat…ironic?…that so many of the college players who get picked up in the draft are defenders; just look at this year’s Generation Adidas class. Defenders seem to make the best college players because they’re the least reliant upon their technical abilities to be successful. I think that, more than anything else, explains why guys like Omar and Matt Besler won’t go to Europe anytime soon; over there you’re expected to be more than a big bruiser who can shut down the passing lanes and win aerial duels.


That being said, there is one young American defender overseas that everyone should be paying attention to: John Anthony Brooks. Sadly he’s hurt right now and is in jeopardy of missing Klinsmann’s January camp, but when he’s been healthy he’s been an excellent player at Hertha Berlin. You could make the argument he should start in Brazil.


Hell, you could almost make the case that Bradley is a defender because his game is somewhat focused on the defensive end and he’s never going to make that “Hollywood pass” (as the English like to say) that sets up a goal or weave through 3 defenders or even score from 30 yards out. His job is to retrieve possession, maintain it, and then start the counter attack if necessary. Hence, your point about Toronto needing to put more around him in order for his signing to be a success on the field.


Which brings us to the last question that should neatly wrap up this little experiment of ours: Is he worth the reported $6-7 million per year that he’ll be making?


So before I get to Bradley’s worth, one quick thing on Brooks. I don’t know if you have found this, but it seems like a lot of people who are chest-thumping MLS supporters do not care for the players that Klinsmann finds who are dual citizens who end up playing for the United States. And it kind of ties back to this notion that’s what is good for MLS is not always good for the USMNT. The thing that I get from a lot of supporters is that the ‘proper’ route to being capped is you play in MLS, become a trndy pick up for the USMNT, get signed by a European team, and be a starter. The point of a national team is to create a roster of the best available players. Who gives a shit if they are half-German?
 It is ironic to me that this is happening because the team that everyone holds near and dear to them, the 1994 U.S. World Cup Team, was largely made up of players who were dual citizens (Stewart, Dooley, Perez, Clavijo, Wegerle, Lalas). I guess we have already forgotten their roots.
So for the Bradley signing to work, there are three things that will need to happen:
1.) Does it improve Toronto?
2.) Does it improve the perception of the league? In other words, will it put the “Major” in Major League Soccer?
3.) Will it attract the casual fan to the game?
I think with the first two questions, the answer is yes but not a strong yes. Toronto will certainly improve because they could not get any worse than they have been. So I think like you said they are going to be a playoff team, but not a strong playoff team. There are far too many holes on the team and I wonder with 4 DPs and no chemistry if this will work out.
From an American perspective, I think it does improve the league. He is obviously a very talented player with tremendous skills and fantastic ability. But didn’t we all expect that he would come back at some point? Every time I see Samuel Eto’o's name mentioned I laugh because it will never happen. It will certainly show players out there that there is money in MLS and that they might get paid. This might be the true positive from this deal: that it shows that MLS teams are finally willing to open their wallets.
For me the third question is the linchpin. This move may get more soccer fans watching MLS games regularly, but it does not attract the casual fans. Unless the US wins the World Cup and Bradley hits the game-winning goal, this will be a blip on the radar. Remember what it took in the 1970′s to get people watching soccer: Pele. What will be interesting to see in the next is if the NYCFC team is the first team to bring a non-American superstar in his prime over.
The Bradley move is a domino and maybe the true value is setting up for the next move. But he is not Pele.
Could not have said any of that better myself!

Mesut Ozil isn’t exactly your stereotypical 6’4 blond haired, blue eyed German is he? Nor is Mario Gomez for that matter. Americans need to get used to the idea of players born outside the US to American parents (and vice versa!) populating the US roster going forward. If you want to win the World Cup, you’ve got to have the best players eligible to suit up for you.


Real quick…

1) Yes, he makes Toronto better.
2) I think the move reinforces each individual’s view of the league as a whole. If you really like MLS and think it’s headed in the right direction, there’s reasons to think it reinforces that view. Same goes for folks like myself who question pretty much everything they’ve done up to this point.

3) No, he’s not grabbing the casual fan’s attention.

As I write this Roma have confirmed that the transfer fee was around $10 million. If he does end up making $6-7mil per year over the next couple years in addition to that fee, I don’t see how he can ever make that amount back for them. Toronto has always had good crowds to begin with and Bradley isn’t David Beckham; you won’t see every Toronto road game sell out because he’s playing. I’m pretty skeptical as to whether or not he’s enough of a “star” to suddenly garner a better TV deal than what they’d get if he wasn’t coming over.


As I mentioned above he doesn’t have a sexy role and he’s not exactly a quote machine, so you can only hype him up so much. I have a feeling, deep down in the bit of my gut, that he’ll wind up duplicating Dempsey’s first season in terms of generating buzz. There will be an initial bump, but as the season goes on you won’t see the needle move very much unless Toronto goes to win the MLS Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League.
The numbers being thrown out around this deal make me nervous and it’s hard to see him ever bringing in that kind of return on investment.

Adam Uthe

VP of Content Development for GFT and proud supporter of Columbus Crew (MLS) and Liverpool FC (EPL). @AUtheGFT

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