Happy New Year! Toronto FC are back.
The players reported to the BMO Training Ground on Friday for physicals and the first media availability of 2023 ahead of the official start of preseason training camp on Monday.
“Really excited,” smiled Michael Bradley. “Whenever you start to see guys trickling back in and the building starts to have more life that part is fun.”
“We were lucky this offseason, there were still a lot of people in and out of the building for a while,” he continued. “That part was nice, just to keep a routine and to still feel like you were in and getting your work and doing it around other people, but the first official day when now everybody's back and things are getting going, that part, we're always excited.”
These first few days are hellos and medical testing that will set the baseline for the work ahead. The team departs for San Diego, California on Sunday where the fitness and tactical work will begin.
“Today and tomorrow are physicals,” explained Bob Bradley. “I check downstairs, make sure guys are doing alright.”
“It's always good to see guys, especially the ones that you haven't seen for a month or two, find out how the holidays went, a good ‘Hello’, and then our medical people have everything organized,” he continued. “All we'll do on Sunday is travel. We'll get there, have dinner and be ready to get on the field Monday and start playing some football.”
MEDIA AVAILABILITY | Bob Bradley – January 6, 2023
This is an important time for the long season ahead.
“It's about using the days in a good way,” said Michael Bradley. “From an individual standpoint, building into things in a good way, getting sharper, getting fitter, getting stronger. And then the rest comes naturally in terms of relationships on the field, how exactly do we want to play, how good can we be at how we want to play, how sharp can we get, making sure that new players are integrated in a good way, both on the field and off the field.”
“This is the work of a preseason,” he continued. “You get six/seven weeks, and then you step on the field for your first game. Obviously nobody's at their absolute best for game one, but you use the preseason to build and lay the foundation and to make sure that when the first game rolls around, you have a group that's ready to go on the field and play the way we want.”
“And then the season starts going, games come quick and this year especially, the potential for a nice long season and a lot of games and different competitions,” Bradley added. “That part’s really exciting.”
TFC will spend nearly four weeks in San Diego before returning home at the end of the month for a few days before heading back to California for a series of preseason matches at the Coachella Valley Invitational at Empire Polo Club in Indio, CA.
They will face Vancouver Whitecaps FC (February 8), LAFC (February 11), and the Portland Timbers (February 15) before closing the preseason schedule against the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 18, one week before the season opener away to D.C. United on February 25.
MEDIA AVAILABILITY | Mark-Anthony Kaye - January 6, 2023
Toronto’s home opener is set for two weeks later, on March 11, when the Columbus Crew come to BMO Field.
It was a short off-season, even shorter for players that featured in the first-ever winter FIFA World Cup, but everyone is glad to be back and ready to get to work.
“I feel great,” beamed Mark-Anthony Kaye. “It's weird. So much football in the last year, but I feel like this has been my longest offseason in a long time.”
“I feel good, I went on vacation with my wife, we've gone everywhere, I'm travelled out and just ready to be back with the team,” he smiled. “So I'm excited that the season started.”
Now 35, Michael Bradley is no stranger to the rhythms of preseason, nor is he unfamiliar with the question of how long he intends to keep going.
“I feel good, really good. Just as good or if in some ways better than I did a few years ago,” he replied. “There's parts to when you get older that you adjust certain things. You gain experience, you gain maturity, you gain an understanding of things. You can tweak how you play and how you do certain things.”
“I look pretty close and pretty hard at myself,” he continued. “Absolutely as you get older you change the way you handle certain situations or you change what you do. Any athlete, as they start to get older, the cliches are all the same – I'm not always sure how accurate they are."
MEDIA AVAILABILITY | Michael Bradley - January 6, 2023
“You guys have heard me say it, I love to work, I love to train, I love to play. I've realized as I get older that the attention to detail in terms of how I take care of myself, what I eat, what I don't eat, what I drink, what I don't drink, how much I sleep, all of these things become that much more important,” Bradley detailed. “I was joking with someone the other day: when you're 25, you could stay up until midnight and wake up and you’d feel no different. And now you realize that the difference between going to bed at 10:30 and midnight is pretty damn big. The details of all this stuff, if you love to play, if you want to give yourself the best chance to still play at a high level then these are things that you have to be on top of.”