TORONTO – With a new coach in charge and a frantic transfer deadline day now behind them, Toronto FC’s players are looking to get back to the business of football ahead of Wednesday’s match against the Philadelphia Union (7 pm ET; MLS Live, TSN2 in Canada).
The team's leader in the midfield, Michael Bradley, said he was, on a personal level, disappointed that former head coach Ryan Nelsen had been let go, explaining that players “always feel responsible when results and things within a club don’t go well because in the end we’re the ones on the field.”
But, Bradley said, the club’s new head coach, Greg Vanney, has handled the transition period well.
“I think, in a crazy two or three days, Greg has come in and handled it tremendously,” Bradley told reporters at training Tuesday. “He has a strong but calm way of leading and a good presence in the group. He’s really found a good way now to talk about some things, show us some things and, above all else, lead with a strong, calming presence.”
Those crazy days were made more hectic when the club’s star striker, Jermain Defoe, received a lucrative transfer offer from an English Premier League club with Monday’s close of the international summer transfer window. Toronto FC declined the offer, but speculation about Defoe’s future in MLS still remains. Bradley said that’s just par for the course in this game, though.
“The first side to it is that this is football,” Bradley said. “When you look around the world, big clubs, big players, there’s speculation, there’s things that go on behind the scenes that you guys never even know about. To be honest, interest, in some ways, fazes you guys more than us because this is something we understand is part of our job.
“The second part is that we only want guys at this club who are committed to be here, who’s hearts are in it,” Bradley added. “Jermain has been a guy, from day one, has shown a desire and a real motivation to not only being here but helping this team win.”
Bradley said that commitment extends to himself, too.
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“When I came in January and sat at the press conference and told people I was excited for the challenge of coming to Toronto, those might have been just words to you guys but it was exactly what I meant,” he said. “I didn’t expect it to be easy, and it hasn’t been. But we’re going to continue to make progress.
“It doesn’t mean there are not ups and downs along the way because it wouldn’t be realistic and it wouldn’t be life if there weren’t. “
Wednesday marks the first of the final 10 matches in Toronto FC’s 2014 season. Bradley said this period of time is a test for his team to “be ready 10 different times over 90 minutes to make sure that, after 34 games, we’re in the playoffs.”
“Keep the faith,” Bradley said. “It’s a huge game. There’s no getting around that. You get to this time of the year, especially given how tight things are in our conference, you can expect that every game – especially games amongst ourselves, teams in our conference – are going to be tight, hard, fast and physical, so that’s the kind of game we’re expecting.”