Bob Bradley takes over as Toronto FC coach. The general is ready to take orders

Football has been in Michael Bradley’s blood since he was very young. His love of the game has led him from his home state of New Jersey to Major League Soccer, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Italy and back to North America.

Along the way, the Toronto FC captain has learned from the best at all levels. Maybe no more than the one who has been there all along.

“My dad and I talk regularly, about everything – about football, about different things going on,” said the 34-year-old Bradley, whose signature nearly eight years ago changed the course of the franchise, about his father Bob.

They will be able to save on their long-distance bills following Wednesday’s announcement of the 12th head coach in Toronto FC’s history.

Bob Bradley, 63, arrives after a recent breakup with Los Angeles FC and already feels at home, joining a club where his son is among the stars on the pitch and his brother Jeff is communications director.

As sporting director as well as coach, Bradley will be responsible for all of TFC’s operations on the field – from academy level to first team – as well as player staff and roster composition. He comes with more than 20 years of experience, including with the national teams of the United States (son included) and Egypt. Teams he has coached have won the Gold Cup, reached the World Cup and won the MLS Cup, US Open Cup (twice) and CONCACAF Champions League final. He is also the MLS coach of the year three times, and LAFC won a Supporters’ Shield with him at the helm.

TFC President Bill Manning, who has worked in professional sports for almost as long as Bradley, said he had waited a long time for the chance to hire him. When the coach’s LA contract expired, Manning threw himself. MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum was also involved in the negotiations with the rest of the Bradley family in the loop.

The upcoming coach arrives with a clear vision for a team in need of a zero after finishing penultimate in points in the MLS last season, one of the worst in their history. Bradley says he will focus on areas of weakness under former coaches Chris Armas and Javier PĂ©rez: identity, style of play, chance creation, pace and tracking.

But with next season months away, there was time for the Bradleys to enjoy a small family reunion before they got started.

“Where are the four?” said the coach as Manning handed him a TFC jersey, referring to his son’s well-known number.

Coach Bob Bradley and son Michael, who appeared at Chivas USA training ground in 2006, are teaming up with Toronto FC.

Like the captain, Bradley says he was attracted to Toronto’s diversity and the stadium at the center – the energy of the stands when BMO Field is full, the close connection between fans and the club. The coach said he has seen every game in his son’s TFC career, often more than once. He and his wife Lindsay were in the stands when the Reds won the MLS Cup in 2017.

“(Michael) and I have shared incredible moments in the game,” Bradley said. “The moments came when I trained him, but they have come when we have been far apart – saw his struggles, talked to him.”

He coached the TFC captain on the US national team from 2006 to 2011, but was not sure he would get another chance with the midfielder late in his career and a season left of the three-year deal he signed in December 2019.

“I want to be interested now to be able to … find ways to continue to open (Michael’s) mind for how he can get better, just like I want with all the other players,” the coach said. “To challenge him, to push him.”

The younger Bradley knows better than anyone what he can expect when the Reds return to work: focus, pace and high expectations. His nickname is the general, but he knows how to take orders.

“It’s the same way you handle someone,” the coach said. “You have real conversations, real discussions. You make decisions.

“No one has ever said when you are a manager that all players agree on every decision, but (it’s) how you make decisions, how you communicate, how you keep people to standards.”

If they play their cards right, the general said, success on the court will be what creates all the headlines.

“After today, people will get tired of hearing about Bob Bradley and Michael Bradley, father and son. It’s getting old, believe me.”

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