Michael Bradley, one of Toronto FC’s prize offseason acquisitions and a U.S. men’s national team star, held a conference call with Seattle-area reporters Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of Saturday’s game against the Sounders are CenturyLink Field.
Here is a transcript:
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(What are the feelings finally leading into your first game with Toronto FC?) “Really excited. I think when the schedule first came out and everybody on our end saw that we were off the first weekend, there was a little bit of disappointment, because I think you get to the end of preseason and everybody is just so excited to get going. Everybody is ready to step on the field and play for points. Everybody is ready to now start playing for real. I think for us at the moment, we’ve had a really good week of training and now just can’t wait for Saturday.”
(You spent a lot of time last year with the national team in qualifying and also with Roma. How much did that time play into your decision to come to MLS?) “I wouldn’t say that that time last year specifically played into it at all. For me, the decision to come back was a lot of things coming together in the right way. I was at a point in Roma where I needed a new challenge and was ready for a change of scenery. Six months out from a World Cup, it was important for me now to get to a place where they really wanted me, to get to a club where they could see what I was all about, and where I was going to play a really important role. For me, the club that was ready to do anything and everything to make it all happen was Toronto FC. The challenge of coming back to Major League Soccer and be a part of what’s going on in Toronto, what we’re trying to build here, that challenge is something that motivates me a lot.”
(What can you tell us about your relationship with the USMNT internationals in Seattle?) “Clint and I obviously have a really good relationship. We’ve played together in the national team for a lot of years now. Funny enough, we actually joke about it still, when we were both at the MLS combine before the draft, and we were on the same combine team. We have a really good relationship on and off the field. I think everybody is able to see how important he is for not only the Seattle Sounders but for the national team. I think whether he’s been in Europe or back in MLS or for the national team, he’s shown what kind of player he is and how important he is for everybody.
“Brad is obviously just starting to now become a little bit more of a regular with the national team. When he’s been called on to play in different spots, and most recently right back for our team, I think he’s done a really good job. I think for him going forward, excited about the challenge of now trying to prove himself as a guy who can be maybe an important guy for the national team. DeAndre, I don’t know. I wasn’t in the January camp. I’ve watched him a little bit from afar, but more than that, I can’t say anything.”
(When Clint came back last summer, did that open your eyes in any way or make you more receptive to a possible MLS move?) “Look, I certainly paid attention when Clint came back last summer, but at the end of the day, everybody has to make their own decision. It’s up to each and every guy to figure out in their career and their life what’s best for them. You have to find the right situation where your qualities as a player and as a person are being appreciated and used in the best way. You have to know how to challenge yourself. You have to know what motivates you to become a better player, to take everything you do and make it count for that much more. Like I said, I absolutely paid attention to when Clint came back last summer, but at the end of the day, every person is always going to have to make his own decision.”
(Given that Toronto has never made it to the playoffs, did you need selling in terms of their seriousness to turn things around? And how important does it feel to this group to get the proverbial monkey of the back?) “Look, to be honest with you, the fact that they have not made the playoffs and not had much success is something that motivates me even more. This is an incredible city. It’s a sports city. It’s people who love soccer and love hockey and love basketball, and now they’re desperate to be able to support winning teams. I think for anybody who followed Major League Soccer when Toronto first came into the league, the support that they had in this city was second to none. Obviously going through an extended stretch of not having much success certainly hurts that. For me, the potential of this club is incredible — when you talk about having real relevance and importance in a city, having everything there as far as the foundation, an amazing training facility, a beautiful stadium downtown, an ownership that is as hands-on as it comes and willing to do anything to make sure now we put things right. It’s really a group of guys who are determined to make sure we get things right for this city. Like I said, it all came together in a way where it’s an opportunity I didn’t want to let go.”
(You came to Seattle last year in World Cup qualifying and raved about the experience. That game was played on temporary grass. Do you have any thoughts as you head into this game on artificial turf?) “Look, I think if you ask any player, everybody is going to tell you that they prefer to play on a good grass field. I think soccer is still a sport that’s meant to be played on grass. When you look at the best games from around the world, games played at the highest level, they’re played on grass. But having said that, we all understand that there are certain teams, certain stadiums in this league that for one reason or another have FieldTurf. And look, it 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.”
(When you came to MLS, was there any trepidation that you wouldn’t be able to get as ready for the World Cup as you might in another team or league in Europe?) “Look, 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. That’s why I’m here. 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 to make sure that this team is successful. For me, that opportunity to come and now play every week and be an important guy, I think 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 of form as ever.”
(Knowing you’re are such an established and important player to the U.S. national team, was there any hesitation at all in going to a Canadian team?) “None at all.”
(You had an uncle, Scott, who played for the Mariners. Did you ever get a chance to come out here and see him play?) “Yeah, actually I think the only time I was in Seattle when I was young was when we came out for his wedding. We were out probably a week or so, so I can remember going to the ballpark at different times. The reception for his wedding was in the Space Needle. I think if I remember right … I was the ring bearer in that wedding. So certainly a city that means a lot to him. It’s where he met his wife. His wife is from Seattle, so I remember being out there at that time.”
(CenturyLink Field is on the same grounds as a Kingdome, where he played. Will that mean anything extra?) “Look, certainly proud of everything that he did and the career he had not only playing for the Mariners but in Major League Baseball. To have a chance to play in a city that means so much to him, yeah, is definitely a nice thing.”