Bradley ready to get going with Toronto

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comMarch 13, 2014 

Recent Toronto FC acquisition Michael Bradley has yet to play in a Major League Soccer game with his new team. The club opens its season Saturday in Seattle against the Sounders, who last weekend beat defending MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City.

NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS

When you get as many shiny new toys as Toronto FC did over the offseason, you want to play with them.

However, Major League Soccer handed the Reds a first-week bye, delaying the debut of midfielder Michael Bradley and other newcomers until 1:30 p.m. Saturday, when they meet Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field.

“When the schedule first came out and everybody on our end saw that we were off the first week, certainly a little bit of disappointment,” Bradley said Wednesday. “(By the end of the exhibition season)

everybody’s ready to start playing for real ... and now we can’t wait for Saturday.”

Bradley, a star midfielder on the U.S. national team, returned to MLS as a designed player through a transfer agreement with AS Roma. He joined Toronto during an offseason that also ushered in English forward Jermain Defoe, Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar and striker Gilberto, and Canadian national team career scoring leader Dwayne De Rosario.

Together they hope to help Toronto reach the playoffs for the first time in its eight-year MLS history.

“The fact that they have not made the playoffs and not had much success is something that motivates me even more,” Bradley said. “ ... The potential of this club is incredible. ... It was just an opportunity I didn’t want to let go.”

Bradley said the move also is right for his role with the U.S. national team and his preparations for this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

“The reality of my situation was I wasn’t sure how ready I was going to be for a World Cup, not playing very much at Roma,” he said. “That’s a big reason why I’m here, is to be at a club where now I’m going to be asked to have a really big role, where I’m going to be asked to have a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. ... I’m challenging myself in ways that will mean when the World Cup comes around, I’m as fit and as sharp and as in good a form as ever.”

The move also marks a full-circle return for Bradley, 26. He turned pro at age 16, playing the 2004 season with the MLS New York franchise then known as the MetroStars. That led to his jump to Europe, where he played in the Dutch, German and Italian first divisions. He made 11 appearances for Roma, scoring one goal.

Last week, Bradley missed the Americans’ 2-0 friendly loss against Ukraine in Cyprus because of a foot injury and was questionable for this weekend. However, he has made clear that he is ready to play Saturday, even on the FieldTurf of CenturyLink Field.

“Everybody is going to tell you that they prefer to play on a good grass field,” Bradley said. “(But playing on an artificial surface) doesn’t change anything from our standpoint. It’s going to be a great game.

“The atmosphere, we know, is going to be really good. It doesn’t change the fact that we’re trying to come in and do everything we can to make sure we come away with a good result.”

The Sounders opened their season last weekend with a 1-0 win over defending MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City at CenturyLink Field.

ADDED TIME

Sounders FC on Wednesday announced the signing of Cam Weaver, a 30-year-old forward from Kent who had played his previous five seasons with the Houston Dynamo. ... Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday for the Sounders’ Aug. 2 road match against the San Jose Earthquakes. The game will be the inaugural event at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., the new home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. ... After an off day, the Sounders will return to training Thursday at CenturyLink Field.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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