Chicago roots help shape U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley

 

Chicago roots help shape U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley

Michael Bradley wasn’t born in Chicago and he didn’t spend a lot of time in the area, but his impact on local soccer teams is still felt today.

The 26-year-old midfielder for the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) lived in Palatine as a teenager while his dad, Bob Bradley, coached the Chicago Fire for four years. Bradley attended St. Viator High School but decided to play club soccer for the Chicago Sockers Football Club.

On Monday, Bradley laced up his boots and helped lead the USMNT to a 2-1 victory over Ghana in the team’s first match of group play. The 2014 games are Bradley’s second trip to the World Cup.

During club season, Bradley plays for Toronto F.C. as midfielder. But in his downtime, he still visits the area and tries to give back to the team that helped mold him.

“Michael wasn’t always the fastest kid on the team,” remembered David Richardson, who coached Bradley during his stint with Sockers. “He came to the soccer field behind the curve physically, so he had to work extremely hard. The things he’s good at now, he wasn’t good at as a youth player.”

Richardson said that as a teenager, Bradley would spend most of his days at Soccer City in Palatine playing pickup games.

“He didn’t care if it was a girls game, a game full of adults, anyone,” Richardson said. “Michael just wanted to play. So he joined whatever game he could.”

With Bradley’s soccer ties to the area, it’s no surprise that he still returns from time to time to help out the players in the Sockers organization.

“Michael and Jonathan Spector have been a big help to our organization,” Richardson said. “They sponsor kids that are under-resourced or need special support; they really don’t have to do this, but they choose to.”
Part of Bradley’s involvement includes offering scholarships to support kids in the program and help them out.

Bradley was inducted into the Sockers Hall of Fame in 2012 and returns to the club whenever he gets the chance. For Bradley, it’s something he just wants to do, which makes it more special for everyone involved.

“He’s not looking to get anything out of it and he doesn’t want to be the guy getting credit,” Richardson said. “He just wants to help out and give kids the chance to have the experience he had. That’s what makes Michael so special.”

Bradley graduated high school early and immediately turned pro when he was drafted by the MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) of Major League Soccer. After the MLS, Bradley played in Holland, England and Italy before returning to MLS with Toronto.

Because he “knew a guy,” Bradley also spent his teenage years training with the Fire. Former Fire player and current Fire assistant coach C.J. Brown said the budding soccer star spent considerable time with the team.

“He was always at practices, in the locker room he would joke around with the guys. It was like he was one of the players,” said Brown. “He was calm and always around us. He surrounded himself with the game every opportunity he could…Michael just wanted to play.”

An estimated 10,000 fans descended on Grant Park Monday to cheer on the U.S. team, prompting city officials to move this Sunday’s viewing party to the larger space at the Petrillo Music Shell. Few, if any, know about Bradley’s Chicago connection, but when the U.S. takes the field against Portugal Sunday, a hometown boy will be among them.

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