TORONTO – No way Michael Bradley would miss out on his first competitive MLS match since arriving to Toronto FC as a Designated Player during the offseason. He says he's recovered from his injury to face the Seattle Sounders on Saturday (4:30 pm ET, NBCSN, TSN/RDS in Canada).
Last week there was concern that Bradley would not be available due to a foot issue that ultimately saw the US international pull out of the USMNT trip to face Ukraine. On Monday the 26-year-old midfielder told MLSsoccer.com he is over the setback and is ready to go.
And on Monday he welcomed his new teammate Jermain Defoe to training.
“I think it kind of gives everybody the sense that now we’re getting going, the season’s starting,” Bradley told reporters at the KIA Training Ground about Defoe's arrival. “I think we all watched the games this weekend and at this point I’m just really excited to get going.
“Seeing [Defoe] in the locker room this morning, now it’s like, 'Alright, we can start now.'"
It took no time at all for Bradley and Defoe to click on the training ground. The two were paired together to practice shooting drills, with Bradley supplying Defoe and vice versa. But manager Ryan Nelsen is making it a point to manage the American's training regimen.
"Light training again for him," Nelsen said about Bradley's Monday session. "The problem with Michael is kind of stopping him from doing stuff, he's so keen and so eager, over-keen and over-eager, which is why he's such a good player. It's more holding him back and pulling on the reigns is my biggest problem with Michael."
While the Bradley-Defoe partnership will needs some time to develop, the World Cup veteran is already impressed by what he's seen from fellow midfielder, Jonathan Osorio.
“He’s a very good player,” Bradley said of the 21-year-old TFC Academy product. “He’s a young player who I think last year started to show what he’s all about and he has a lot of potential. He’s a guy who we’re going to count on heavily this year to really be an important player for us. I think he’s done a really good job.
“Jeremy Hall and Kyle Bekker have shown that they’re very good players, too.” Bradley added.
Whomever is selected to pair up with Bradley in the middle for Saturday's match against Seattle, the season opener will be a test of just how much the new-look Toronto FC have been able to jell during preseason, something Bradley points out as instrumental to future success.
“The first stretch of the season, you’ll see that everybody’s kind of finding their way,” he said. “No team is going to play perfectly. It’s about knowing how to play together, how to stick together, how to compete and how to still get points as you’re kind of finding your way.
“It’s 25-30 guys checking egos at the door and now being committed to each other and to the team and to doing whatever it takes to make sure that this group is successful,” Bradley said. “That’s why we’re all here, that’s why we’re all excited and that’s going to be our challenge.”
Armen Bedakian covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com.