Michael Bradley’s first official 90 minutes for AS Roma were unspectacular, but the U.S. National Team member ended the game with a bang, providing the tying assist in stoppage time to secure a 2-2 result against Catania.
Bradley struggled with possession at times, which came to haunt the American international in the 12th minute. The hard-working, relentless midfielder was forced to make a dangerous tackle from behind after poor ball control, and as a result the referee pulled out a yellow card. Overall, Bradley’s first 20 minutes were forgettable to say the least, but he wasn’t the only one, as the whole Roma side played poorly during the early parts of the match.
However, as the game wore on, Bradley's play improved, as he showed off his one-touch passing skills that make him such a dynamic player at various key moments throughout the match. His passing prowess came from a more advanced role compared to the defensive midfield position fans saw Bradley play last season with Chievo Verona, which is also similar to the deeper role he occupies under Jurgen Klinsmann for the U.S. Men's National Team. This shouldn’t change throughout the season with Roma, because Danielle De Rossi will play as the regista (deep-lying playmaker) while Bradley pushes closer to the opponent’s goal.
With the American playing in an advanced midfield position, Bradley should score more Serie A goals this year than the single goal he mustered up last season for Chievo. Multiple times against Catania the Roma midfielder made dangerous late runs into the box, and even missed an opportunity that he usually would finish in the 75th minute. The advanced position will suit Bradley well, as the U.S. player is lethal in front of goal.
If anything, expect the former Chievo player to put up numbers that resemble the 10 goals Antonio Nocerino produced for AC Milan last Serie A campaign. For Milan, Nocerino made a living off dangerous late runs into the box that were unnoticed by defenders who were busy marking one of the World's top strikers, Zlatan Ibrahimović. I envision Bradley executing on a similar strategy, slipping through Serie A defenders who are busy worrying about his Roma teammates, Pablo Osvaldo and Francesco Totti.
AS Roma's coach, Zdeněk Zeman, will also help Bradley increase his scoring production. The Czech-born coach is know for his attacking style Serie A teams who are willing to take risks by putting numbers forward. Throughout Italy, his tactics are dubbed Zemanlandia, after he remarkably took Foggia from Serie C to Serie A with an attacking flare. Zeman’s teams play attractive soccer and finish to ridiculous score lines – either they win 5-0 in a blowout or lose 5-0 trying to outscore their opponents. So, you should never expect a dull moment at Stadio Olympic with this Czech coach on the bench. As a result, it won’t be just Bradley’s position, but additionally, his coach’s tactics that will allow him to score more.
As I previously stated, Bradley didn’t perform optimally in his first match for the Giallorossi, however, he did provide a moment of magic when his pass set up Nicolás López’s tying goal in second half stoppage time. Big players show up when their team needs them, and on Saturday, Bradley made THE play that earned Roma a crucial point to kick off the season. The only surprise for me during the match was the former MLSer's lack of involvement on set pieces, as Bradley was usually positioned at the top of the box. Regardless, Bradley’s playing style and tireless running will fit perfectly into Zeman’s plans in the Italian capital.
Written by Anthony Mannino (@AnthonyMannino), regular contributor for SoccerATX and The USA 10 Kit