Michael Bradley has been an excellent servant for TFC throughout his career, but there was a sense last week that this could be the final time that we see the American take to the field in the red of Toronto.
Needless to say, the midfielder is a professional, and he wouldn’t let personal matters affect the team morale. That was evident last week when he walked off the pitch following the conclusion of the side’s last training session before the conference final against Atlanta. It just felt like another day at the office for the influential talisman.
His loss would be felt harder than most at TFC. Sebastian Giovinco was replaced seamlessly this summer, but replacing the impact and presence of Bradley could be the most difficult transition in the history of the franchise.
Bradley has overseen this monumental time for TFC, which has seen the team reach the finals for the third time in four seasons. Bradley was instrumental in that one success in 2017, but talk about his future threatens to derail the final fixture against Seattle Sounders.
The midfielder’s contract expires at the end of the season, which means he could virtually walk away from the club the minute that the last whistle is sounded on Sunday. It would be impossible to suggest that he doesn’t know what his next step will be, but he is keeping that secret locked away from the public domain at this point.
He has been the captain and leader for the past six years, and he has seen everything. He has enjoyed the highest of highs, as well as the lowest points that come with soccer in Toronto. But, he refuses to let the talks surrounding his future take over what could be a historic weekend for the club in Seattle.
Speaking ahead of last week’s conference final, he said: “You can’t be captain, and you can’t challenge guys every day to come in here and commit to the team and give everything they have to the group … and be the first guy worried about your own contract, your own situation.
“If I did that, every single guy in that locker room would be looking at me and saying ‘Who the hell are you? You’re talking out of both sides of your mouth.’
“For me, the focus has always been the success of the team since I got here. In a lot of ways, I was always going to be judged on whether we won or lost. The reality is, the position I play (midfielder), I’ll never be the guy to rack up a ton of goals and assists. It takes people who really know the game and understand the game to be able to watch and know what I do, and that’s fine.
“But ultimately, when I got here, I always knew my time here was going to be judged on whether we won trophies and on the biggest days, what the team was about. So for me, I genuinely don’t care about next year right now. I want to go to Atlanta, beat them, get ready for another MLS Cup. When all is said and done, they’ll be plenty of time to sort through this stuff.”
However, Bradley admitted that the city is now his home and that his family situation will also be pivotal in his future decision. He said: “We live here year-round. We love this city, and we love the people.”