Michael Bradley’s first trip to Seattle came when his uncle, former Mariners catcher Scott Bradley, got married in the Emerald City. The Toronto FC and U.S. National Team midfielder was the ring bearer and enjoyed the views from the Space Needle during the reception.
Now over 20 years later, Bradley will restart his MLS career in the city where his uncle played for six of his nine seasons in Major League Baseball, as Sounders FC hosts Toronto FC in the first match of the season for the Reds. While Seattle opened the season with a dramatic 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City last week, Toronto started with the season with a bye.
“I’m really excited. When the schedule came out and everyone on our end saw that we were off the first weekend, there was a little bit of disappointment because when you get to the end of preseason everybody is just so excited to get going,” Bradley said. “Everybody is ready to step on the field and to play for points. For us, at the moment, we’ve had a really good week of training and we can’t wait for Saturday.”
Bradley came to Toronto in a series of moves that have reshaped a club that has yet to reach the playoffs in the first seven years of existence in MLS. The move spoke volumes of the progress of the league, as Bradley was previously playing with AS Roma in Italy, but because playing time was looking to be scarce in 2014, he opted instead to jump to Toronto to help him prepare for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil in June.
“The reality of my situation was that I wasn’t sure how ready I was going to be able to be for the World Cup when I was not playing very much at Roma. That’s a big reason why I’m here. I’m at a club where I’m going to be asked to put a lot of responsibility on my shoulders to make sure that this team is successful,” Bradley said. “For the opportunity to come and play every week and be an important guy…I’m challenging myself in ways that will mean that when the World Cup comes I’ll be as fit, as sharp and in as good of form as ever.”
His situation is similar to that of Clint Dempsey, who left Tottenham Hotspur in August to join Sounders FC. While the duo have a great relationship that dates back to 2004 when the future stars of the U.S. National Team were paired on a team at the MLS Combine, Dempsey’s decision to sign with Seattle had little impact on Bradley’s decision.
“I certainly paid attention when Clint came back last summer, but at the end of the day everybody has to make their own decisions,” he said. “It’s up to each and every guy to figure out in their career and their life what’s best for them. You have to know how to challenge yourself and know what motivates you to become a better player.”
Bradley is a major piece to the core of Toronto FC as it looks to end its playoff drought. He is joined by several other major acquisitions including English star forward Jermain Defoe, Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar and Brazilian forward Gilberto along with MLS mainstays Dwayne De Rosario and Justin Morrow.
With that new arsenal intact, Bradley doesn’t look at Toronto’s postseason absences as a negative, but instead as another challenge to conquer.
“It’s something that motivates me even more,” he said defiantly. “This is an incredible city. It’s a sports city and they’re desperate to be able to support winning teams.”
Sounders FC and Toronto FC kick off at 1:30 pm PT. The match will be televised locally on Q13 FOX and nationally on NBC Sports.