By Kevin Koczwara
Michael Bradley made the best of his chances in Germany with Borussia Monchengladbach, but right now, as Gladbach sit in last place in the Bundesliga, and Michael Fink’s arrival at the club on loan, Bradley needs to get out. Aston Villa signed the American midfielder on loan for the rest of the season. It’s about time he moves on and test his American spirit in the English Premier League, a league tailored to his style. .
Bradley will find himself in a similar situation at Villa to the one he leaves behind in Gladbach. Aston Villa is fighting the relegation battle too, but it has better prospects than its German counterparts. Things look brighter these days at Villa Park.
Gerard Houllier has the team fighting again. He has removed a few of the cancers in the side that were sleep-walking through the season (looking at you Stephen Ireland). The one piece Houllier is missing, a hard-working and young holding midfielder who can break up an opponents attack and spring a counter-attack. He gets that missing piece with the arrival of Bradley.
Bradley is just 23-years-old, but he seems so much older because of all the time he has spent with the U.S. Mens National Team. In his blossoming career, Bradley has had a knack for popping up in the right time, putting up a tough fight, and sparkling when the limelight shines on him.
This summer at the World Cup, I had my questions about the coach’s son. (To be fair, I doubted the team as a whole. Bob Bradley’s squad selection as a whole gave me a heart attack. I mean, he started Ricardo Clark alongside Bradley rather than Maurice Edu, may I say more?) But when the time got tough and the U.S. needed a player to step up, it was almost always the coach’s son leading the charge. That’s just the type of thing Villa needs right now, a leader who will stand up to the challenges and fight back with everything he has.
Bradley’s ability to play from end to end can’t be lost in the shuffle. Yes, he is primarily a holding midfielder who works hard and tackles harder, but he does get to the other end of the field and score goals, not something all holding midfielders do well. With three goals in 17 appearances this year for Gladbach, Bradley has shown that he can be a menace on either end of the field, ghosting into the box late, winning free headers on set pieces, and slotting home his chances when they come. Something Houllier will have to exploit if he wants to get the best from the American during the loan.
Along with the arrival of Darren Bent, Bradley’s move to Villa Park could be the next step in the regeneration of a club that just weeks ago teetered on the edge of diving off the Cliffs of Dover. Now, things are starting to look brighter for Villa as it fights for a top ten finish. Something no one would have said just a few weeks ago.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at Kevin.Koczwara@thesoccerguysonline.com