MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Toronto FC chase return to "winning franchise" with Bob Bradley at the wheel

Bob Bradley desk Toronto FC presser

Bob Bradley has seen every single Toronto FC game in the last eight years. Often, he watches them twice.

His son, legendary US men's national team and MLS midfielder Michael Bradley, arrived at TFC in 2014 when it was a fledgling club looking to find its feet after expansion. Michael became captain and spearheaded a culture change to help the Reds rise from laughing stock to among the league’s elite.

Bob Bradley has held that connection to this club. He has an intimate feeling and knowledge around Toronto despite never officially being connected with them.

Until now, that is, with Bradley unveiled as Toronto FC head coach and sporting director on Wednesday.

“There’s a lot to do,” Bob Bradley told media. “But the incredible love we have for Toronto, the opportunity to come here and get started, I’m thrilled.”

Bradley is among North America's most respected and decorated head coaches.

The three-time MLS Coach of the Year and former USMNT boss ranks third all-time in MLS wins. With LAFC, he led the club to a then-MLS record points haul upon winning the Supporters' Shield in 2019 before guiding them to the Concacaf Champions League final in 2020.

Prior to his time with LAFC, Bradley was an assistant with D.C. United during the league's first two years before taking charge of Chicago Fire FC in 1998. He also was manager of the New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA before being named USMNT head coach in 2006. After leading the US to knockout stages of the 2010 World Cup, Bradley left the role in 2011 and was subsequently appointed the national team manager of Egypt before becoming the first American to manage a Premier League team in 2016 when he took over at Swansea City.

The move came together quickly. Bradley spent the last four seasons as the manager of LAFC and only officially left the Black & Gold on Nov. 18. By Nov. 24, he was officially announced as Toronto FC head coach and sporting director.

“I always thought Bob was a guy I’d want to run my team,” club president Bill Manning said. “The circumstances allowed for that this year. Things came together very quickly. I think he’s the right guy at the right time for this club. I’m really excited.”

Manning noted there were a few other candidates he had in mind in case it didn’t work out with Bradley, and even spoke to a pair. But it became clear very quickly that Bradley would be the guy.

Bradley is now the third head coach + sporting director combo in the league, alongside Sporting Kansas City’s Peter Vermes and New England Revolution’s Bruce Arena.

“Bob is going to put his own stamp on this franchise and I look forward to him doing that,” Manning said. “He has what it takes to put together a winning franchise.”

Change in the Designated Player spots?

There are a ton of questions at the top of Toronto’s roster.

Alejandro Pozuelo had a down year after winning MVP in 2020 but insists he wants to stay after his contract expires next winter. New signing Yeferson Soteldo never quite flashed his true, consistent potential, and has been linked with a move back to South America.

Jozy Altidore

Forward Jozy Altidore, who was on the outs last spring after an argument with then-head coach Chris Armas, is reportedly not returning to TFC, be it as a contract buyout or some other form of departure.

“Jozy’s under contract,” Manning said. Then when asked if he planned for Altidore to be on the opening day squad he didn’t commit: “I think everything is open right now with us.”

“Jozy’s situation is unclear, that’s part of the problem,” Bob Bradley said. "It’s up in the air, seems like it’s just a cloud that lingers. There’ll be discussions, that part has to have clarity.”

Pozuelo, though, is excited about the new era. He has one year remaining on his contract and has 22g/26a in 72 career MLS games, though just 1g/4a in 19 appearances last year while battling injuries.

“You can ask the president after, I don’t know,” Pozuelo said when asked about his future. "I hope I can be here a lot of years. … For me, I’m happy here. With a new project, new coach, I’m excited for next year and I hope I can be here for more years.”

Bradley reunion

For the early part of Michael Bradley’s career, his father Bob was his coach more often than not.

Bob coached the MetroStars when Michael made his professional debut and his breakout season. Then Bob was let go by the club and Michael embarked on his European career, but in 2006 after only a few caps with the national team, Bob took over as head coach from 2006-11 where Michael became a mainstay.

For the first time since then, the Bradleys will be reunited professionally, though they have been deeply intertwined in each other’s careers in the meantime.

“I’m very excited, there’s no two ways about,” Michael said. “But I’m excited for the club more than anything. I’m lucky, I know more than anyone how good my dad is. The environment he’ll create inside the club and out on the field – as a player, that’s what you want. That’s all you want.”

Michael Bradley

Michael has been with Toronto since 2014 and has made 207 MLS regular-season appearances with the club, leading them to winning MLS Cup and the Supporters’ Shield in 2017, winning the Eastern Conference two more times and three Canadian Championship titles.

“I didn’t know if I’d have the chance to coach Michael again," Bob said. "He and I have shared incredible moments in the game. Those moments came when I coached him, but it also came when we’ve been far apart. I was here for the final in 2017 with my wife, we had great pride.”

Michael, now 34, is in a new stage of his career. Bob doesn’t envision any issues when Michael needs to be taken off the field or rotated, insisting when they’re on the pitch Bob will be his coach, not his father.

“Michael is in the backend of his career,” Bob said. “I’m interested for when training starts, to see if I’m able to open up his mind how to get better – just as I will with every player. I look forward to that. I know how committed Michael is to the club and this city. I’m excited, getting to coach him again and challenging him. That part for the both of us will be great.”