By AVI CREDITOR
LANDOVER, Md. — Michael Bradley has had two of his best, most influential games in any uniform for club or country in recent wins for the national team against Italy and Scotland. He was able to turn in those performances after growing as a player during a standout season in Serie A for Chievo Verona, taking the road less traveled for U.S. soccer players and heading to Italy.
His league and soccer in Italy as a whole face an uncertain future after a match-fixing scandal that has resulted in the arrest of 50 people and the investigation of others, including Juventus coach Antonio Conte and Italian national team players Domenico Criscito and Leonardo Bonucci.
"It's unfortunate," Bradley said following training on Tuesday. "I've been lucky enough to now have spent the year in Italy and to see first-hand what football means to the people in Italy, how much people love the game there. I think this is unfortuante. For me it doesn't change anything. It's a great country, great people, for me the league is still one of the best leagues in the world. Hopefully these things, everything can be taken care of, sorted out, what needs to be done can get done and we can all move past it."
Italian Premier Mario Monti has put forth the radical suggestion of suspending soccer as a whole in Italy for two or three years given that this is the second major scandal to rock the country in the last six years. A result such as that would put Bradley's rapid ascension in Italy to an abrupt halt.
Here are a couple of more items to emanate from FedEx Field:
ALTIDORE'S CONFIDENCE RISES
After Jozy Altidore has had a few weeks off after his club refused to release him for the start of U.S. training camp, whether he is in the starting lineup is one of the few uncertainties heading into Wednesday night's match against Brazil. His inclusion in the starting lineup during the past season at AZ Alkmaar was, aside for one stretch in the middle of the season, a given, and it paid big divdends for his productivity.
Altidore scored 19 goals in all competitions, his 15 goals were seventh-most in the Eredivisie and he garnered the confidence that has helped his game grow by leaps and bounds after a few discouraging club years overseas in which regular minutes were a rare commodity.
"I've just always felt that I can show better," Altidore said. "I just got a chance to play. I got a chance to play consistently. I didn't just get one game, I got a few games in a row, and when you do that you start to get confident."
Altidore's hope is that confidence translates into more goals on the international stage as well. He scored from the penalty spot against Slovenia in November for his only tally during the Jurgen Klinsmann era, his 13th goal in a national team jersey.
MENEZES CONFIRMS BRAZIL LINEUP
Brazil coach Mano Menezes isn't hiding anything a day before his team squares off against the U.S. national team, confirming his starting lineup for Wednesday's match. Neymar and goalkeeper Rafael Cabral, who both joined the club late after playing in the Copa Libertadores for Santos, will replace Lucas Moura and Jefferson from the lineup that played over the weekend in a 3-1 win over Denmark.
Brazil will line up as follows: