TORONTO – It certainly is a moment worthy of the feels.
Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono made his first senior international appearance for the United States in a 3-0 win over Bolivia at the Philadelphia Union's Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania on Monday.
“Real barn burner wasn't it,” joked Bono upon his return – he did not face a single shot on goal. “First cap, I'd rather have it be like that than go up against Brazil before they go to the World Cup.”
“Not a lot of action is not such a bad thing for your first one with nerves and stuff like that. First ten minutes, I will admit, I was a little shaken by the moment,” confided Bono. “When I was hearing the anthem, it was the moment that I'd always been waiting for. It was a dream come true. From that aspect, it was awesome, but I am glad to be back.”
Another career milestone, another step on the journey that he did not take alone.
“Parents made the trip, little brother – just graduated from college; they brought the dog. The four of them were down there. That was really awesome,” said Bono. “During the anthem I was able to look up in the stands, find where they were sitting.”
“The look on my parents' faces, definitely hit me in the feels,” admitted Bono. “I know they were super emotional; I tried to keep the emotion out of it. But I know that for them it was a very proud moment. It was unbelievable to have my real core support group down there behind me.”
Core in place, Bono has been surrounded by further levels of support at TFC, which he called “unbelievable.”
“Words can't describe how grateful I am to [Tim] Bezbatchenko for letting me go,” said Bono. “You don't want to miss league games, [they're the] priority, but he had gotten word that the plan was I was going to get my first cap and he allowed me to go. And obviously the coaching staff and Jon [Conway, goalkeeper coach] for getting me ready for situations like this.”
“Playing for your national team is the highest honour a player can have,” added Bono. “That's always been the goal when I've talked to Jon. He's done his best to prepare me for that moment.”
Himself a former US international, Greg Vanney understands what a moment like that means to a player.
“It's a great feeling,” said Vanney. “I'm sure a lot of pride for him to go out there and get a shutout, do all the little things you have to do to come through that with a good experience. I'm sure he feels good.”
“These things are huge confidence builders for guys when they take those steps in their careers,” added Vanney. “Whether we go with Clint [Irwin] or Alex [on Saturday], both are ready. It's a very positive experience for Alex that will bode him well both short term and long term.”
Back with Toronto ahead of a crucial Eastern Conference clash against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium, the 24-year old keeper will be looking to translate the emotion of this experience into league play.
“We're getting to the stage where the mentality every game is we need to win and pick up points,” said Bono. “The summer grind is about to start. Last year we hit a stretch where we were on fire. I don't see any reason why we can't replicate that this year.”
“Since I've been back, training has been intense, high focus,” continued Bono. “The next 90 minutes are the most important: go to Columbus this weekend and pick up three points.”
“It's a long season; it seems to be flying by, but there is a ton of opportunity for us, a ton of room for us to climb up that table,” added Bono. “By no means is the season anywhere close to over or dead or anything like that. There's a ton of opportunity for upward movement. That's what we're focused on; one day at a time, one game at a time.”