TORONTO – International soccer has a circle of life all its own.
As one generation welcomes the next onto the stage, so do they for those that come afterward.
For the US national team, that cycle will be on full display on Tuesday evening when the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs resume, with Toronto FC visiting Columbus Crew SC for Leg 1 of the Eastern Conference Final (8 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN, TVAS).
Michael Bradley will be TFC's only Designated Player in uniform, as Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco serve suspensions. On the other side will be Crew SC coach Gregg Berhalter and captain Wil Trapp, two familiar faces from Bradley's own progression through international soccer with the US.
In 2006, a teenaged Bradley had a brief stint in the same US camp as Berhalter, a veteran who was preparing for the World Cup in Germany.
“From the beginning, his mentality, his professionalism, his leadership qualities; how much he loved the game... You could see it right away,” Bradley said. “He was very good to me, and I'll never forget that.”
Now it's Bradley who is the veteran and Trapp, who at age 24 already has five MLS seasons to his name, potentially represents the next wave.
“[Trapp] is a very good and very important player for their team; the way they go about things," Bradley said. "I wouldn't call him a young player anymore... that is a compliment to him. He's not just a little kid anymore."
When the two square off on Tuesday, leading their opposite sides, who wins the day could go a long way towards giving either a leg up in the series.
“Wil is a perfect piece for what Gregg likes to do,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney last week. “His strength is when they have the ball. That's what Gregg likes his teams to do: They want to have the ball as much as possible and want to move you around. Wil's movement is pivotal in [their] ability to get from the back to the midfield to the front.”
While Bradley clearly respects Trapp, he also knows he is enemy No. 1 come Tuesday night.
“He's a guy we have to try to make things difficult on,” said Bradley. “We feel good about how we're going to go about that.”