New season, same game.
The ball is still round, the net the same size, Toronto FC’s ideas of how to play the game and become a good team after Year One under Bob Bradley have been set, but for three members of the squad – Mark-Anthony Kaye, Jonathan Osorio, and Richie Laryea – things will never be the same.
All three represented Canada at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar; all three will have been changed by the experience.
“It's the experience of having played at the highest level, the experience of having played in the biggest games, the experience of having played in moments when the lights come on brightest; what it's like to play against top top teams and top top players,” explained Michael Bradley, himself no stranger to the World Cup having played in two editions. “There's certainly the pride in standing on the field before a game and you hear your national anthem, that's special. There are not many moments like that.”
“As athletes you go and go, you work and work, and it's not always you have the chance, or want to take too much time, to stop and think about what you've done. But there is a part to a World Cup where you can't help but look around and think this is a dream come true,” he continued. “And so when you have that experience, you're able to take away so many things from a football standpoint, but also just from a human standpoint, that's special.”
“So hopefully now they come here – hopefully, I know they will,” Bradley corrected himself. “More motivated, more determined, more excited about what we're doing because ultimately that's what gives them the opportunity to play more games for the national team, to stand on the field in three-and-a-half years and play a World Cup game at home and hear your national anthem. We're all proud of them, excited that they're back, and know that they’ll use the experience in a good way.”
Laryea and Osorio featured in all three of Canada’s group stage matches, whereas Kaye was on the bench for the first two outings before starting against Morocco.
“It was definitely a surreal moment,” he reflected. “Just being at a tournament of that magnitude is overwhelming in the most positive way; the fact that you get to do that with brothers that you fought beside for four years, to finally get there was a good feeling.”
“The level was definitely eye opening for me,” Kaye continued. “It shows you that there's more to achieve. I really saw a different level of intensity, there's so much on the line. It was a great experience to be a part of.”
“Playing that Morocco game, I’ll cherish that for a long time,” he added. “A huge learning experience for me, being able to play against world-class players – you saw what Morocco did – very grateful for that moment. Results didn't go the way we wanted, so you look at that side, but in terms of experience, we have a young group that can carry this into 2026.”
Speaking back in December when he re-signed with TFC, Osorio said something similar of his time in Qatar: “It opened my eyes.”
“It was interesting to see how far or close I was from that level, but now I have that feeling,” he continued. “I feel like no matter where you are, you can train to be at that level. It motivated me to bring that here to Toronto.”
Teammates in Toronto since 2014, seeing Osorio step onto that grandest of footballing stages was particularly meaningful for Michael Bradley.
“I'm not a huge stats guy, but I’ve played a lot of games in my career with Oso,” said the TFC captain. “Maybe Jozy [Altidore] between the national team and games here, maybe that's a little bit more, but Oso and I have been teammates for nine years: that's a lot of games, that's a lot of big games together, that's a lot of training sessions, and that's a lot of moments in the real world.”
“And so to be his teammate, to be his friend, to see how hard he's worked to grow and improve and to get that opportunity, yeah, just so proud of him, so excited for him,” he continued. “I can't remember which game, but at one point I saw his mom in the crowd – that was awesome. It was a fun World Cup. Watching and rooting for the United States, watching and rooting for Canada. The World Cup is the World Cup, but this one especially was fun.”
MEDIA AVAILABILITY | Bob Bradley – January 17, 2023
The trio will be looking to bring those experiences with them into the 2023 MLS regular season and beyond.
“It highlights speed of play, your ability as you receive a ball, how you arrange yourself, the use of your touches, the quality of your touch,” listed Bob Bradley, who managed the USA at South Africa 2010. “We do everything we can in training to create those type of challenges every day, but when you're on the field playing against top teams, when you play against the Croatian midfield three and they're so fluid in the way they find space and the way one drifts over the left, one drifts over to the right, the quality of each pass, then all of a sudden you say ‘Wow.’”
“It's almost like a light comes on a little bit brighter, that things that you thought about and heard about and seen on a certain level, all of a sudden you find out ‘Oh boy, there's a lot more there,’” he continued. “Everything always comes down to the speed at which things happen. All sports, the higher the level you go, the faster everything goes and then your ability to see things faster, process faster, that becomes what separates the top players. Both of them came back in awe of what that was like.”