Toronto FC's call-ups to US January camp pledge more Reds success in 2018

Marky Delgado -- Justin Morrow -- Greg Vanney

CARSON, Calif. -- Alex Bono and Marky Delgado are enjoying their first US national team camp, and Justin Morrow is back in the fold after making his first international appearances in four years at last summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.

If it's a reward for Toronto FC's stirring form en route to last season's unprecedented treble -- MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield and Canadian Championship -- then expect more Reds to receive invitations to next year's January camp. What they achieved in 2017, they plan to do it again.

“We know that teams are going to come after us more now. We are MLS Cup champions,” Delgado told after Thursday's training session at StubHub Center. “Teams always want to come out and prove that we're beatable, that last year was luck. But we're going to come out this season with the same mentality of 'one game at a time, nothing gets in our way.' ”

Toronto's spectacular campaign required vital work from so many across the roster, not just stars Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Victor Vazquez. And Bono in goal, Delgado in midfield and Morrow at left back played important roles in the team's success.

Bono and Delgado represent the youth movement in the US camp after the United States' failure to reach this year's World Cup. Morrow, a Best XI selection last season and at 30 the oldest player on the roster, is one of the veterans interim coach Dave Sarachan has appointed to lead the group. All three plan to be around awhile.

“I'm just so happy that at this point, with my age, I was called in, because I think I deserve to be here ...,” said Morrow, a ninth-year MLS vet. “And Alex and Marky deserve it very much. It's great for them, it's great for them to get that experience here, to taste the taste f the national team level. They deserve it first of all, and they'll grow from it.”

Bono, 23, stepped into the nets for TFC when Clint Irwin went down with injury in the home opener, as he did when Irwin was hurt in 2016. This time, he assumed the No. 1 role for good, posted 10 shutouts and a 1.12 goals-against average in 29 starts, then shut out Columbus in both legs of the Eastern Conference final and Seattle in the 2017 MLS Cup.

“It's an unfortunate situation when someone has to go out because of injury, but that's how opportunities are won and lost in professional sports as a whole,” said Bono, whom Toronto took him with the sixth pick of the 2015 SuperDraft. “I knew when I got the opportunity, it was going to have to be something where I made the most of my chances and hope that the team stuck with me. Fortunately for me, that's the case.

“[After starting 15 games in 2016], I knew what to expect. I knew what the pressure would be and what the expectation would be, so it felt very natural to be in there and playing my game.”

Delgado, 22, is a No. 8 with soft feet who assumed greater responsibility last season as a deputy of sorts to Bradley. He's been associated with TFC head coach Greg Vanney and assistant coach Robin Fraser since they teamed up at Chivas USA (Fraser brought him in as a 16-year-old Homegrown Player in 2012, and Vanney nabbed him in the 2014 dispersal draft after Chivas folded) and last year took a big step forward.

“I've really matured and really grew more composure on the field within knowing where I am on the field and always checking my shoulder and really being connected with teammates,” Delgado said. “I feel like that's what's really grown this year. I have Michael and Victor Vazquez, and they've taken me under their wing and really taught me a lot. I take as much information as I can from them.”

The Reds' three-trophy run was planned -- expected -- from the first day of training a year ago, Bono noted.

“We came into preseason and we knew that the goal was to be the best team in the regular season, win our domestic trophy, and keep sharp during the playoffs and win MLS Cup,” he said. “It seems really simple, and for us at the beginning it was on that basic of a level. We said we're going to set out to do these things, this how we're going to do them, and from day one of preseason to the final day of the season, when we lifted the trophy, we did everything to work towards that final goal. Work towards each of those trophies, knock one off at a time.”

Repeating is more difficult than winning the first. Only three clubs in MLS annals -- D.C. United in 1997, the Houston Dynamo in 2007 and the LA Galaxy in 2012 -- have claimed successive MLS Cup crowns. The Reds plan to be No. 4.

“Winning never gets old. That's something than anyone who has won multiple times will tell you,” Bono said. “You can never get sick of winning. Because once you feel the despair of losing, you never want to get back there.

“We made history last year with the [69] points. We know that not many teams have repeated. We're trying to continue making history. We're trying to solidify that 'best team in MLS history,' because in reality, if we continue to do what we're doing, then nothing can keep us from that.”