Finding your place as a goalkeeper on an MLS roster is a challenge few shot stoppers can conquer. Finding your place in a city of nearly 3 million? For TFC’s Alex Bono, that was even more challenging.
An adjustment greeted Bono on several fronts as he made the move to Toronto from Baldwinsville, N.Y. in early 2015 to embark on the first day of the rest of his life.
“I grew up in a town much smaller than this; you had to drive to go anywhere,” he says. A move to North America’s fourth-largest city was a far cry from the suburbs of Syracuse.
Bono enjoyed a standout career at Syracuse University before being selected by Toronto FC in first round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. The young goalkeeper had visited the city as a child, but making the move up north was something he hadn’t really considered.
“I remember thinking, ‘I have to go to Canada?’ Bono says with a laugh. “It’s not something I knew a ton about, and I wasn’t really sure what to believe. I knew some of the differences like the currency, Celsius versus Fahrenheit, that sort of thing. But I wasn’t really sure how I’d feel once I got to the city.
“At the time, I was just so unsure about going to a place that seemed miles away culturally than what I grew up in. There was a bit of nervousness for sure.”
Some of those nerves were quelled, however, by a couple of guys who knew a thing or two about starting a new life in Toronto.
As I’ve grown as a person, the city has grown on me. I continue to find things that I’ve never seen before and experience things I’ve never experienced before.
“When I found out I had been drafted, I was with Michael [Bradley] and Jozy [Altidore] at USA National Team camp and they told me nothing but the best things about the city. Jozy had just signed, but his little experience with the city and Michael’s experience in Toronto was definitely reassuring. The nerves started to subside after hearing about all the great things this city had to offer.”
After learning his loonies from his toonies while honing his craft with Toronto FC II, Bono continued to carve out his own niche both on and off the field. With the help of an Ontario native, the young goalkeeper began to make Toronto his home.
“I lived with Jay Chapman and we would explore the city a lot. I love trying different foods and learning the different cultures. It’s amazing that I can walk around the corner from my apartment and find a restaurant that I’ve never been to or find a bar that I’ve never watched a game at.
“Then when I started to get a string of games last season, I felt that I was settled into the city and got into more of a routine with the first team every day.”
Bono no longer calls Chapman his roommate, but he hardly spends his time at home alone.
When he’s not at the training ground, you can likely find Bono out at the dog park with his two-year-old Yorkie/Pomeranian mix, Drax. After bringing him home following his rookie season, Bones and his puppy have become an inseparable duo.
“This is probably the place where I spend the most amount of time, outside of my apartment,” he says. “I never had a dog growing up, but I knew that I wanted one. And because the living spaces aren’t always the biggest down here, you don’t want to get a big dog that would be cooped up in a small apartment.
“I found this dog park here and it became our spot. He loves to run around and have fun with the other dogs. He’s very special to me; I love spending time with him and watching how he interacts with the world around him. For him, this is a playground, and I love getting to spend that time with him; it’s really special. This being my first dog, I’m fortunate that he’s well behaved… most of the time, anyway. He keeps me busy, I just love the little guy.”
Having taken his chance with the first team, Bono continues to enjoy the process of uncovering all that Toronto has to offer as one of the most diverse cultural landscapes on the planet.
“The people here are incredible, whether you’re talking about our fanbase or just the people you see throughout the city; they’re the culture of the city and they’re what set Toronto apart.”
With his best buddy in tow, Bono is thankful for the journey that has taken him to Canada and helped to mold him into the man he is today.
“It started as an uncertainty, but it’s turned into a feeling of never wanting to leave. I love this city, it’s become a second home to me. I can only hope that this is just the beginning.”