Michael Bradley inspires TFC to a 3-1 win over Philidelphia Union
Michael Bradley scored his first goal since the 2016 season and added another in the second half for his first career multi-goal MLS game. As Toronto FC opened the season with a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday.
Bradley, the eight-year MLS veteran who was scoreless in back-to-back 30-plus start seasons, scored the first goal of the 2019 season in first-half stoppage time with an easy redirection of Auro’s cross to the penalty spot. His second goal in the 62nd minute also came on an open shot from the spot.
“Outstanding. Covered a ton of ground. Knows when to get forward and when to defend,” said Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney. “He was in the right spot at the right time on both occasions. A lot of times he ends up getting stuck deep. But with Marky (Delgado) now back he can release and get himself in goal scoring positions. It’s not something we expect of him but he’s fully capable.”
Nick DeLeon, an off-season acquisition from D.C. United, capped the scoring in second-half stoppage time. With a shot from the top of the 18-yard box for his first goal since 2016.
“(DeLeon) has been fantastic since he arrived. I can’t think of a better guy he is all about the team,” said Bradley. “Such a good way in terms of immersing himself to the team and on the field. A very good player who you can use in many ways. He is mobile. A good footballer. I can’t say enough about him.”
“He had a fantastic game,” said teammate DeLeon, when quizzed about Bradley. “Finishing, his mentality was good. He brought some bite, aggressiveness. He brought it all today and I think guys really fed off it.”
Toronto had several other good scoring chances in the first half. But Jonathan Osorio’s penalty-kick attempt in the 34th minute was saved by Andre Blake and Jordan Hamilton’s breakaway shot rolled just wide of the post.
TFC has a four-game winning streak in the series and is undefeated against the Union for four years. With their last loss coming on September 6, 2014.
Philadelphia ended a 359-minute scoreless stretch in the series on Marco Fabian’s penalty kick goal in the 73rd. It was the MLS debut for the Mexican international. The Union nearly scored three minutes later. But Toronto defenceman Laurent Ciman cleared it off the line.
The three points were the reward for a huge character win for the Reds who, just four days before, were unceremoniously eliminated from CONCACAF Champions League action by Panamanian pipsqueaks Independiente of La Chorrera. TFC has a lot to prove this year. They have to prove that they can win without Sebastian Giovinco (who left for Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal) and midfielder Victor Vazquez (gone to Al-Arabi in Qatar) and they have to prove that they have what it takes to bounce back from a disastrous MLS campaign last season.
TFC also had to find a way on Saturday to score without forward Jozy Altidore (Altidore underwent ankle surgery in the off-season and is not expected back until the club’s opener on March 17) and the soon-to-be-signed Spanish midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo in the lineup. They did that, thanks to Bradley and DeLeon, who was probably the best player overall on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Altidore took a major step towards that commitment on Thursday, when it was announced that he had signed a three-year contract extension. The deal will keep him in Toronto through the 2022 season.
“This is my home, this is where I want to be and this is where I want to keep building,” said Altidore, who had his mother Giselle with him at Thursday’s news conference.
“I love playing at BMO (Field), it’s no secret. I love scoring goals there,” he added. “And so to have the opportunity to keep scoring goals there and to keep building what we have going on here is a dream come true for me.”