Michael Bradley is back! Well, kind of. He's back in training.
The United States midfielder injured his quadriceps in Roma's season-opening draw on August 26, but he returned to training with A.S. Roma today, his first action since he got hurt. In addition to being absent from the Roma team, Bradley also missed the Americans' World Cup qualifiers at the beginning of the month, a loss to Jamaica in Kingston and a win back at home against the same Reggae Boyz.
Bradley was initially expected to miss two-to-three weeks so his return today puts him a few days late on that projected timeline, but it is a welcome return for Roma.
Roma has taken seven points from its first four matches and is set for two matches this week. First, they are home to Sampdoria on Wednesday. Then they are away away to defending champion Juventus over the weekend and will try to be the first team to take a point from the Old Lady this season. It is unclear what Bradley's fitness is like and whether he can play a part in either match, but at least he is back in training and an option.
Bradley's play in that season opener versus Catania didn't exactly set the world on fire. He was behind the play and undisciplined playing on the right of Roma's three-man midfield with Daniele De Rossi and Miralem Pjanic. He gave the ball away regularly, looked unsure of where to go and was late on passes that he should have made. It was not an impressive debut for the American, who had played very well in the preseason.
For 90 minutes, he did little to impress, but then in stoppage time he hit a gorgeous long, diagonal ball for Nicolas Lopez to set up the equalizer. Did it make up for his shoddy first 90 minutes? No, but it did flash his skills and show why Roma bought him in the offseason.
It was also only one match. Nobody is going to judge Bradley or Roma's decision to buy him on one match. He has dozens more left, but Zdenek Zeman won't necessarily have a starting spot waiting for him on his return.
The U.S. will sure be hoping for Bradley to get back fit and in form quickly. They have two World Cup qualifiers next month that they need points from or they will be eliminated from the 2014 World Cup.
While the team had problems separate of Bradley and Landon Donovan's absence in their loss to Jamaica, and then did beat the Reggae Boyz, they did leave big holes that the U.S. would rather not have to fill next week. In Bradley's case, the Americans missed his pace of play more than anything, which is something that they will need against two teams -- Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala -- that will welcome a slower tempo of play.