MLS Cup: Michael Bradley, From dream to obsession to reality

Michael Bradley is not one to leave his heart on his sleeve, but he is a player of rare intensity and thoughtfulness so he was close to tears as he told what it meant for Toronto FC to win MLS Cup, after years of futility and after the 2016 loss on penalty kicks.

Toronto FC had not made the MLS playoffs in its first seven seasons, and it didn't in Bradley's first season in 2014. It took three more seasons before TFC became the first Canadian team to win the MLS championship, beating the Seattle Sounders, 2-0, on goals by Jozy Altidore and Victor Vazquezto gain revenge for its shootout loss to the Sounders in the 2016 final.

"It’s surreal," Bradley said of the feeling finally winning. "It’s why I came, it’s why we came. It’s been the dream for the last four years. After the way things went last year, you can say for the last year it was an obsession."

Bradley said the team's goal was to get back at MLS Cup but the feeling of losing was so bad that it seemed like 50 years away.

"Lifting this trophy has been an obsession for the last 364 days," he said, "not just for me but for every single guy in our team, every coach, every part of the staff. From the second [Roman] Torres scored the winning penalty last year, to get ourselves back here, to give ourselves another crack at it, there’s no other word for it than just obsession. It’s hard to describe to people on the outside to what it’s been like to live that every day, to live that in beginning of preseason when it feels like you are years away from a game, let alone a playoff game, let alone a final."

As TFC captain, Bradley said he did not have to do anything to keep his teammates focused.

"I think I’m a pretty driven person," he said, "and I think at times I have to make sure that I don’t wear guys out, because for me it’s no problem to go 24 hours a day, every single day. But I understand that everybody is different and I have to pick and choose moments to say things and to really be hard with certain things. With this team, it was incredible because there was never one moment when I looked around and felt like guys were losing focus or forgetting about we were supposed to be doing, everything was about getting back here."

On top of getting back to MLS Cup, Bradley had to deal with not getting to go to the World Cup. On the eve of the MLS playoffs, the USA failed to qualify for the first time since 1986. He didn't say what it meant to win MLS Cup 2017 in the context of failing to qualify for the World Cup with the USA, but he talked about what he had to do when he got back from Trinidad.

"There are moments when things are going well for your national team but not your club, moments things are going well for your club but not for your national team," he said. "Especially for me as captain, I have a huge responsibility to make sure that nothing carries over. I give everything I have in a given moment for the team that I'm playing on, and then when it's time to switch gears, I switch gears like that. When we got back from Trinidad, I said to our media here that it wouldn't be fair to any person here -- our teammates, our coaches, our fans, any people part of this club -- if we brought the anger, the frustration or the heartbreak over, because this team this year has been like nothing that I've ever been a part of just in terms of a group of guys together with the coaches, the staff, with everybody upstairs at the club who were just so single-minded."

The best part was that Toronto FC not only won, but it won with a commanding performance in which Bradley dominated all over the field.

"To every single guy who has been a part of this road, this journey, for the last year, it's incredible," he said. "To cap it off in the way that we did, to play the way that did with everything on the line, with all the supposed pressure on our shoulders, I'm so f***ing proud."

1 comment about "MLS Cup: Michael Bradley, From dream to obsession to reality".
  1. Bob Ashpole, December 11, 2017 at 6:50 p.m.

    Good article. Thank you. 

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