The rise of Michael Bradley’s professional career has taken him through MLS, Holland, Germany and now the famed Serie A in Italy. Signing for Chievo Verona, a club with a history of being a breeder of talent for the biggest clubs in Italy, Bradley continues to gain seasoning and experience at the highest levels. After becoming the first U.S. player in 15 years to step on the field in Serie A when he entered as a substitute on Sept. 18 against Parma, he took another big step when he earned his first start for the The Flying Donkeys in their big 1-0 victory against Napoli. ussoccer.com spoke with Bradley after the match about the experience.
ussoccer.com: What was your reaction to getting this first start so early into your time at Chievo?
Michael Bradley: “Anytime you come to a new club you know there is going to be a process of trying to establish yourself in the team and prove to your coach and your teammates that you are a guy that should be on the field. There's no telling how long that takes. I've been at clubs where it takes four, five, six months. From the first day you show up trying to show what you're about as a person and a player. I got a little bit of a taste of things when we played Parma away last weekend. To be able to play 90 minutes Wednesday and have it come in a good win for the team is definitely a good step moving forward.”
ussoccer.com: How did you find out you would be starting?
MB: “The coach had talked to me about being ready at a certain point to step on the field and play. I didn't know for sure it would be for this game. You don't find out until a few hours before. Here we play a lot during the week, and there is a big focus on the tactics. The coach goes through the plan thoroughly with everybody. He'll literally go through every situation with every guy from 1-22 on the roster so everyone will be ready to go and know what he has to do.”
ussoccer.com: What was your role in the game against Napoli?
MB: “We played 4-3-1-2. I played as one of the three defensive midfielders, and I was tilted to the right. Tactically, the way the game went it meant I was dealing a lot with the attacking guys on Napoli that are out on their left side. As a team we were organized and disciplined and very committed to doing that for 90 minutes. It was definitely not our sharpest night with the ball, but we were very hard to play against. To win a game like that was good for us.”
ussoccer.com: What was the atmosphere like?
MB: “We share a stadium with the other team in town Hellas Verona. The stadium was built in 1963 and then renovated for the 1990 World Cup. It's an older stadium, but it has character. On a night like (Wednesday), there's a lot of Napoli supporters and a lot of Chievo supporters. It makes for a great atmosphere. In all ways, for the team and for me personally it was a great night.”
ussoccer.com: Seen any Michael Bradley jerseys yet?
MB: “Other than the one on my back, not yet (laughs).”