Why Michael Bradley is Yanks' top player  

December, 19, 2012

Just about everyone connected to American soccer has marveled at Michael Bradley's on-field progress over the last year or so, the way he immediately established himself as a key contributor with AS Roma after arriving in July, and how, since the start of this season, he's slowly but certainly earned the title of best U.S. player.

For those who've covered the national team for years, though, an even more pronounced change has become apparent off the field, particularly in postgame mixed zones. That's where Bradley -- who's long been one of the national team's stars and perhaps the Yanks' most consistent performer at the 2010 World Cup -- was well-known among the media for his tendency to bristle at poorly worded questions.


There's endless patience. There's reflection. There's even humor.

"Where there once was a scowl," a fellow reporter said recently, "there's now a wink and a smile."

Both the on- and off-field evolutions mostly come down to maturity. Now 25, Bradley has seen his life has change considerably since the summer of 2011. He got married, had his first child this fall, and stepped in seamlessly with two different Serie A clubs, the second of which happens to be among the most important in Italy. By any measure, he's in a good place in his life.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.