TORONTO -- Bloodied, stapled up and still playing, Michael Bradley is quickly proving to be not only among the most talented but also one of the grittiest midfielders in MLS.
His head-to-head collision with Davy Arnaud during Toronto FC's 1-0 win over D.C. United last Saturday gave Bradley a gash on his signature bald head that required 13 staples to close. While onlookers winced at the sight, Bradley didn't.
"I actually didn't feel much at all," Bradley told reporters at Tuesday's training session. "Until somebody mentioned there was a little bit of blood, it wasn't an issue for me. We have total faith and confidence in our medical staff, there was no need to even think about it twice."
Bradley was instrumental in Toronto's only goal of the game, floating a pass over the D.C. backline to find Gilberto, whose shot eventually rebounded onto the foot of Jermain Defoe. The English international slotted home the goal and gave Toronto the win.
The game was TFC's first of the season at home, and the Toronto faithful showed up at BMO Field in numbers, with more than 22,500 people in attendance. That support, which had waned in the last few years, left an impression on Bradley and his side.
"The first thing we talked about afterwards was the atmosphere and the way the crowd pushed us on," Bradley said. "We expected a great crowd but really, from the second they started singing the national anthem right until the final whistle blew, it was like nothing we'd ever seen."
Now, Bradley looks ahead to an away encounter against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday (9:30 pm ET, MLS Live in US, TSN2 in Canada).
"[Real Salt Lake] is a good team," Bradley said. "They've proven that over a lot of years now. They're consistently there at the end of the season, playing in finals. It'll be a good test for us. Obviously, playing in altitude always presents certain things you'll have to deal with and, again, we'll go on the road to a difficult place to play against a really good team and be excited by the challenge."
Against RSL, Bradley will be matched up with another elite central midfielder in USMNT teammate Kyle Beckerman, with Real defender Nat Borchers making an eyebrow-raising comparison between the two earlier this week.
"[Beckerman] is a good player and has shown he's an important guy for that team," Bradley said.
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But Bradley was quick to credit the cast surrounding Beckerman as well.
"When we talk about their team, we'll talk about [Javier] Morales, [Alvaro] Saborio, Nick Rimando has gotten off to a great start. Guys like Luis Gil and Tony Beltran have continued to improve and get better," he noted.
"When you look at them, it's talking about them in collective terms because it's a group of guys that have been together for a long time and you have to respect them."