TORONTO – Michael Bradley hasn’t played with Toronto FC for long, but his presence in the TFC midfield has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the club’s players.
Two of Bradley’s midfield partners, Jeremy Hall and Jonathan Osorio, talked about playing alongside the American international during a practice session on Tuesday, and they say Bradley brings more than a star name to Toronto FC.
"It's just the way he reads the game," Hall told MLSsoccer.com, when asked what makes Bradley a unique player to play beside. "When he's coming to collect the ball, he knows where pressure's coming from. It almost looks like everything comes slow to him.”
The club’s current captain, Steven Caldwell, called Bradley the “future captain” of the team.
At 26 years of age, Bradley is already demonstrating the qualities of a captain in spades.
"He's bringing a leadership quality that I haven't seen from other midfielders I've played with," Osorio told MLSsoccer.com. “He raises the level of the whole team beside him. He expects more out of me and I expect more out of him. It's great to play alongside him."
Hall and Osorio have both partnered Bradley in midfield at some point during Toronto FC’s preseason training games. Head coach Ryan Nelsen prefers a flat 4-4-2 formation, utilizing the talents of two central midfielders, and with Bradley in the team, Nelsen has not altered his formation.
When he's been on the field, Bradley has always been one of the central midfield pair and sits in front of Toronto’s back four. With Hall and Kyle Bekker, Nelsen has a few pieces to use in next to the American international but Osorio is Nelsen’s preferred starter. The young Canadian international has already begun building an on-field relationship with Bradley.
“I'm not afraid to do things now,” Osorio said. “I know if something does happen where I make a mistake, Michael's going to be there to back me up. It lets me be more confident on the field to play the way I know how."
Beyond his skill and leadership qualities, Bradley’s work ethic has also had a positive influence on the team.
"He's one of those players who always wants the ball," Hall said. "You can give it to him when he has guys on him and he's going to keep it for you. When guys are tired he's still out there running all over. Seeing him do that brings energy to everybody else.”
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Off the field, Bradley has also had a positive effect on the players’ mentality.
"[The] mentality is way different than last year, that's for sure,” Osorio said. “The mentality now is to win. We are expected to win whether we go away or play at home.”
Osorio added: “We're going into every game expecting to win and dominating every game as well.”