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Michael Bradley: The Most Important Captain in Toronto FC History

MLS: Orlando City SC at Toronto FC as Michael Bradley's Soccer Career Was Over

Michael Bradley has been with the team since 2014 and has been the captain of the squad since 2015. He came to Toronto FC with Jermain Defoe as part of that “Bloody Big Deal” back in 2014 for the upcoming 2014 MLS Season.

Michael Bradley: The Most Important Captain in Club History


Michael Bradley was born on July 31, 1987, in Princeton, New Jersey. The New Jersey native has always been driven at a young age. This is what Josh Wolff, who is now the assistant coach of the Columbus Crew SC, said about Bradley:

“He was always consumed by the game,” Wolff, now an assistant with the Columbus Crew, said of young Michael. “He has a willingness to get better and a drive and determination that makes him better. That’s why he’s able to cover the amount of ground he does in a game.”

Bradley played for the Union, N.J., then with the McLean Youth Soccer in Northern Virginia, and then the Chicago Sockers. His favourite player growing up was Roy Keane, the Manchester United and the Republic of Ireland midfielder (source: Luke O’Brien of Dead Spin).

Early Years With Toronto FC

Michael Bradley was acquired from AS Roma back in 2014. He scored his first-ever goal TFC goal on April 5, 2014, against Trillium Cup rivals, the Columbus Crew SC. The midfielder played 27 games and scored three goals, which includes scoring one goal in the Canadian Championship. Also, in MLS play, Bradley had four assists for his team. Bradley described his mindset when coming to TFC in 2014 earlier this month as this (source: Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press):

“I said to people at the time that I was hell-bent on trying to come here and do everything I could to take what I thought could be such a special club and help turn it into something.”

2015 was the year that the three main Designated Players for TFC first played for the team in Canada’s financial capital. Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco joined the team to try and make a difference to the squad for the first time. In addition, Bradley became the captain of the team and he also made a step up in his stats, scoring five goals and dishing out five assists for his team.  This included scoring one goal and giving out one assist to defeat Canadian Classique rivals, the Montreal Impact (now CF Montreal) in MLS action on June 24, 2015.

TFC would make the playoffs for the first-time in club history, but would lose to their Canadian Classique rivals, the Impact, 3-0 in the playoffs.

2016-20: The Highlight Years of the Organization

Bradley and Altidore were the two players that played in all five years of TFC’s dominance in MLS. Sebastian Giovinco left the team before the 2019 MLS Season began.

However, all three players were instrumental to the success of the team.

When talking about Bradley, it can be said that he was there for the big goals in the big games. An example would be in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Impact. Toronto was trailing that game 3-0 and needed some hope to advance to the MLS Cup Final when going back to the home leg at BMO Field. TFC was able to deliver that and one of the players to score the key goal was Bradley.

Without that goal, TFC could not advance to the MLS Cup Final as it required extra time at BMO Field for Toronto to eliminate Montreal from the playoffs. A final, which they unfortunately lost in penalties against the Seattle Sounders FC.

His stats in MLS play were two goals and four assists in 2016, two assists in 2017, three assists in 2018, three goals and one assist in 2019, including scoring a brace in the MLS season opener against the Philadelphia Union.

Other big games included where Bradley assisted in the final to help Toronto secure the 2017 and 2018 Voyageurs Cup in the Canadian Championship. This included Bradley crossing the ball to Sebastian Giovinco, for his first of two goals in the game. Bradley also had one assist in the win over York United FC in the 2021 Canadian Championship. In his last few seasons, he had two goals and three assists in the 2022 MLS season and he finished off with one goal and one assist in 2023, but was injured for a lot of that season.

READ MORE: Farewell, Michael Bradley: Looking Back On A Legendary Career

Bradley would also find success in the 2018 Concacaf Champions League, and also the 2019 and 2020 MLS seasons for TFC. In fact, the success in the 2020 MLS season, helped Toronto win the 2020 Canadian Championship in 2022. He also helped TFC in what was their best season ever. In 2017, they won the MLS Cup, the Supporters’ Shield, and the Canadian Championship. Unfortunately, Bradley did not have that level of success with the team from 2021-23, but was always willing to do anything needed for the team and the city to win more championships.

Michael Bradley Was Selfless

READ MORE: Analysis: John Herdman Leaves The CanMNT For Toronto FC

Michael Bradley gave his all for the team. He even played in positions that he was not used to for the club. In many instances in the last few seasons, Bradley was forced to play a defensive role for the club. This was even the case in Bradley’s last game against Orlando City SC after Aimé Mabika got injured early in the game. Even Herdman said it was unfortunate and “gutted for Michael that we had to shift him into a back three,” (source: Tom Nightingale of Waking The Red).

Also, Bradley was making $1.5 million in 2022, but made only $614,826 this year. Jason Hernandez, former teammate and Toronto’s assistant general manager explained why as Bradley approached the front office and voluntarily took a pay cut  (source: Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press):

“That gave us the ability to go after not only one MLS free agent, but multiple (free agents),” said Hernandez. “That’s Michael for you,” he added.

This was also even shown by his individual achievements. He was an MLS All-Star three times (2014-2015, 2017) and was also the Red Patch Boy Player of the Year in 2014.

READ MORE: Federico Bernardeschi: His Influence With Toronto FC

Legacy of Michael Bradley

READ MORE: Toronto FC And Their Five Best Players In Franchise History

There is a debate on who is the greatest player of all time with TFC, which also include names like Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. Like those two players, Bradley deserves to be in that conversion. There is no other TFC player who plays at such a high level and at the same time was so loyal to the club.

Bradley knew he was going to retire a few months ago, but was not sure until it finally happened (source: The Canadian Press of Sportsnet):

“I’d say that for the last few months I was 99.9 percent sure that I was going to retire at the end of the year,” he added. “But obviously when you get to the end, it’s a little bit like time to put you money where your mouth is. And with something like this, that’s way easier said than done.”

In the book, Come On You Reds: The Story of Toronto FC, done by Joshua Kloke, this is what Warren Creavalle, who played for Toronto from 2014-15, said about Bradley:

“He raised the intensity level, more than anything,” said Creavalle. “He’s going to be that guy that will hold players accountable and will make sure that no player is slacking. That’s one of the best qualities he brings to a team.”

Bradley meant a lot to this team, club, and culture. He is irreplaceable as captain and it will be interesting to see how TFC moves on in the future to change the script in 2024.

READ MORE: Editorial: The Legacy of Greg Vanney with Toronto FC


Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports, of a Michael Bradley Headshot, on October 21, 2023.


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