Michael Bradley, Toronto FC know what to expect from DC United, even in unfamiliar surroundings

Toronto FC may be playing several days later than scheduled, in the breakfast hour in an unfamiliar facility in a brand new competition.

There is one thing captain Michael Bradley knows they can expect, though. A D.C. United squad that is up for the occasion.

"D.C. are always organized, they always compete hard," Bradley said of the MLS is Back Group C opener on Monday (9 am ET | ESPN2, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN, TVAS in Canada). "It’s never an easy game against D.C."

As Exhibit A, Bradley pointed to last year's meeting in the first round of the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. Toronto eventually prevailed 5-1 in extra time, but only after D.C.'s Lucas Rodriguez found an equalizer in the third-minute of second-half stoppage time.

"Even in certain moments when their backs are against the wall, they still find ways to make games difficult," Bradley said. "The playoff game last year at BMO was obviously a great example. It didn’t look like they had much going and it looked like we had things under control, and they’re able to find an equalizer right at the end and push us to the brink a little bit."

That victory spurred TFC on a run that led to the 2019 MLS Cup final, where they lost 3-1 on the road to the Seattle Sounders. That defeat was Bradley's last game, with ankle surgery having sidelined him for Toronto's first two regular season matches earlier this year.

"My ankle feels good," Bradley said. "Physically I feel good and strong and ready to go. So very excited."

Toronto's travel delays, and the requirement that teams be on site for a week before competing against another team, pushed the game back from its originally scheduled Friday kickoff, which means the Reds will only have three days' turnaround before their second match against Canadian Classique rivals Montreal Impact next Wednesday.

While the schedule will obviously require some squad rotation from coach Greg Vanney, the abbreviated training time in Orlando shouldn't be a major issue, said defender Justin Morrow.

"We’ve done an incredible job of keeping our team together and safe while we were in Toronto leading up to this tournament," he said. "That meant that we had weeks of uninterrupted practice before we got here. Whereas that’s not the case for some other teams. And so we’re hoping that good preparation and attention to detail will help us get through the tournament healthy and successful."

Bradley expects the continuity and character that has helped Toronto play in eight major finals in the last four years may be even more important in the MLS is Back environment than in a typical regular season fixture.

"When a tournament like this starts, you’re going to still rely on the ideas that have been ingrained in the team over the last few years," Bradley said. "And in that regard we’re lucky that we have a group that has been together and understands what it’s like to play on different days. And then our ability to draw on our mentality that even when you’re playing at 9 am on a Sunday, it’s hot and humid and it’s your first game in a while, to still find ways to push through things and do enough of the things that make us a good team that we can be successful. That’s what it’s going to be about."

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