BRENT LATHAM – The January loan moves of two of America’s top midfielders to the English Premier League from the Bundesliga provided a great chance for comparison.
Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones both came over from relatively active roles for their clubs back in Germany (even if Jones had recently fallen out, again, with his coach at Schalke), and the move to what are essentially English mid table teams would be a new start for both.
The situations were relatively similar coming in, with Aston Villa and Blackburn both in need of a midfield boost, so it has been telling in many ways that it is Jones and not Bradley who has seen the field regularly in the EPL this month, culminating in 90 minutes for Jones in Blackburn’s 4-1 loss to Villa on Sunday, while Bradley sat the bench again.
Does this situation have implications for the US national team?First, lets assess a little of what’s going on here. That Bradley has been slow to be introduced to the lineup in Birmingham should be little surprise. American players tend to take some time to win their spot, especially in the EPL, no matter their quality. I am one of those who believes firmly that Americans still have it tougher in Europe than most others, and Bradley seems to be a victim of that – he’s a better player than Jean Makoud (though not quite the same type).
(If you don’t believe this, and many don’t, ask how many times Clint Dempsey has had to win back his spot at Fulham, or why Stuart Holden had to prove himself on trial at the same time mediocre Slovak Vladimir Weiss was inserted straight into the starting lineup at Bolton early last year.)
Jones, on the other hand, was sought out and has gone straight into the lineup. He’s done well overall, which seems little surprise as well. Of course the circumstances are slightly different, but their are too many similarities to resist a comparison.
Is Jones that much better than Bradley right now? I wouldn’t be too surprised if the fact that Jones has gotten an opportunity right off the bat while Bradley has not has at least a little to do with the fact that Jones is perceived as German rather than American. In the beginning it’s about the trust of a coach in a player he has not worked directly with in the past. Of course, in the end, the manager will play those who give him the best shot at winning. But he has to be sure first, and with Americans, it seems to take a little longer.
But then, that’s only part of the story. Whether you believe in the American bias or not, the other half is that Jones, at this point in both careers, seems to be clearly the better box to box mid, on the judging criteria of some pretty good coaches. So if the U.S. plays a 4-4-2, with Holden tearing it up, is there still a place for eternal 90-minute man Bradley in the U.S. starting lineup, going on form?
The answer would have to be no, especially with Maurice Edu also doing quite well at Rangers.
(Please note: Michael Bradley is still a great player with lots of upside and a bright future with club and country, this is just a commentary on current form going into the March friendlies. Of course their are ways to get two or three of these gusy on the field at the same time, but if it’s Jones or Bradley at this point, well, it’s an interesting test of the Bradley relationship theory.)
We’ll see what happens, and have plenty more to write about, very soon.