TORONTO – Michael Bradley wasn’t around when Toronto FC players cleared out their lockers this week, but he was once again a main topic of discussion after completing his first season with the Reds.
This time it was head coach Greg Vanney admitting that there has been some communication – and perhaps some disagreement - between him and United States national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann about what position suits the 26-year-old Bradley best.
“I’ve spoken to Jurgen, and most of the conversation, to be fair, was Jurgen telling me how he thinks Michael should be played,” Vanney said during his year-end press conference. “My conversations are more with Michael and how Michael feels he should be played. We are with the player on a daily basis and we have a rapport and a relationship with the player on a daily basis and how they train and how they work.
“I think Jurgen feels like he’s a player who should be higher up the field,” Vanney added. “But I don’t know that Jurgen and Michael see things exactly eye-to-eye. So I work more closely with Michael than Jurgen in that realm.”
Bradley’s position in the midfield was the source of plenty of conversation throughout the season, and he was utilized in a number of different roles in Toronto. Vanney sees Bradley as a link-up midfielder who can “really dictate the tempo of a game and the pace of a game” and “can connect all of our pieces together.”
Klinsmann used Bradley further up the field for the US in 2014 – including all four matches in the World Cup – but Vanney disagrees with any ideas that Bradley has been misused at TFC.
“I have a vision for where I think the player fits, and we need to meet on a common ground,” Vanney said. “If I were to, for example, see Michael as a No. 10, which I don’t, or an attacking midfielder, but he sees himself as a holding midfielder, we’re never going to get the best out of each other if we just can’t agree on what that looks like.”
Bradley scored two goals and added four assists in 25 appearances for the Reds this season. Earlier this week, he underwent successful surgery in New York to repair nerve damage in his foot, but it is unclear when he will return to training or if he will be available to play for the US during their international friendlies in Europe next month.
Vanney said that whenever Bradley returns, it is a top priority for the Reds to figure out where he will best serve the team and how he will become a better player.
“I work more closely with Michael on his image and vision for the game and what his strengths are, but also where does he want to go?” Vanney said. “He’s not a complete player yet; he’s not his final product. Michael still believes, as I do, that he has areas in his game that he can continue to improve and can even try to take another step forward in terms of the world’s level of players.”