TORONTO – Michael Bradley belongs in red.
In six years with Toronto FC, the captain has achieved a lot – 200 matches, eight trophies, countless memorable moments. Bradley has been a key cog in turning the club into the force it is today.
Never one to talk much about himself, those around him spoke about his importance to TFC at the end of season press conferences.
“He’s a guy that has helped build the culture here, that’s clear,” said Jozy Altidore, who was enticed to Toronto by Bradley. “Mike is a guy that comes in every day and tries to get better, every single day.”
“You can never have too many of those guys. And he wants to win. He understands that he’s part of something bigger than himself, which is why we’ve had such a great understanding over so many years,” continued Altidore, who has lined up alongside Bradley with the US National Team as well as TFC. “It’s about the team. It’s about making sure we give ourselves the chance to play for trophies at the end of the season. That’s always been our conversation.”
“We’re not worried about the individual crap, we want to win, to put the team in a better position,” he added. “Guys like that at your club, that want to be at your club... hugely important.”
Raw numbers do not do his contributions justice. Sometimes even words fail.
“Michael is so important to this team. It’s hard to put into words,” admitted Justin Morrow, who has been with Bradley since the beginning in 2014. “He’s the number one reason why we’ve had so much success over these years. He brings a lot on and off the field, helps with organizing the players – in the locker room, on the field – and he brings winning mentality every single day.”
Players like that cannot be replaced.
“It’s crucial to have him back,” said Omar Gonzalez. “To keep his leadership, to keep that fighting spirit; to keep everyone on the same mission. He’s amazing at that, at leading by example. And he holds guys accountable, which is very important in any team setting.”
“He definitely does that,” added the centre-back knowingly. “It’s very important to have him in our jersey next season.”
With a new contract and at least three more years in red ahead, it is the future that matters now.
“The money, the contract itself – while always important – that’s not the driving force in any way. I came here for something way bigger than that and the reasons for me wanting to stay are still way bigger than that,” explained Bradley. “I want to make sure, in all ways, the drive and ambition of the club are every bit – if not bigger – than they were when I got here.”
“As a competitor, as a leader, a winner, I want us to be challenging at the top, playing in the biggest games, competing to lift trophies. That’s what drives me. That’s what is fun; that’s why I play,” he added. “Ultimately the most important thing for me is I have the feeling that we are going to do that.”
“For as much as I love to play, to train, to compete, for the way I take care of myself, I still think my best years are in front of me,” he promised. “There is no part of me that now wants to just quietly enjoy the next few years.”