The complexities of father facing son played out this week in Michael Bradley’s house ahead of Toronto FC’s match against Los Angeles FC.
LAFC are coached by Bob Bradley, Michael’s father, and Saturday’s contest at BMO Field marks the first competitive game that has seen the two on different sides (the teams played in the preseason earlier this year).
With his mother arriving in town early to see the family, Michael Bradley said his three-year-old daughter wasted little time quizzing her grandmother on her allegiance.
“She said ‘Grammy, who are you rooting for?' “ the TFC captain related with a smile. “And my mom said kind of ‘Ah, I’m rooting for both teams. I want a great game.’
“And my daughter looked at her and goes ‘But Daddy’s your son.' “
While a draw might arguably be the best result for Bob’s wife, Lindsay, Toronto (7-13-6) urgently needs all three points. Languishing in ninth place in the East, the MLS champions are three places and six points out of the playoffs as they prepare for their third game in a week.
In contrast, expansion LAFC (12-7-7) sits comfortably in third spot in the West.
Every since LAFC entered the league with his father at the helm, Michael has made no secret that his father’s club is close to his heart. He acknowledged on Thursday that there is no shortage of LAFC gear under his roof.
“Listen, after TFC, LAFC is the clear team of choice in our house – and it’s not even close,” he said happily.
Michael has played for Bob, both with the now-defunct MetroStars (who drafted him) and the U.S. national team.
With a midweek game in Portland, where an under-strength Toronto lost 2-0, TFC has had little time to prepare for LAFC, although Michael and Bob both said this week they have watched every second of each other’s games this season.
While Michael said he was “very excited” about playing against his father, Toronto coach Greg Vanney says it’s been business as usual for his skipper despite the focus on family.
Toronto has eight games remaining – five at home and three away – with Vanney saying six wins are probably needed to make the playoffs.
He has targeted the five home games – LAFC, L.A. Galaxy, New England, Vancouver and Atlanta – as must-wins. But even if Toronto wins out at home, it would have to grab a victory at the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United or Montreal to fulfil Vanney’s plan.
And it could all be moot, if another team goes on a winning run.
In essence, New England (7-10-8, 29 points), D.C. United (7-11-6, 27 points) and Toronto (7-13-6, 27 points) are all chasing Montreal (10-14-3, 33 points) for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East. Fifth-place Philadelphia (12-11-3, 39 points) has a six-point edge on the Impact.
“Everything is urgent, everything is important, every point is vital in one way or another,” Vanney said. “I think everybody feels that. This is a group that’s been around, played in big games – so they know what all that feels like and looks like.”
Despite the busy week, Toronto should be rested with Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Vazquez, Gregory van der Wiel, Drew Moor and Jonathan Osorio not travelling to Portland. All are expected to play Saturday although Vazquez (knee) will have to pass a fitness test.
LAFC, which tied the rival Galaxy 1-1 last time out, is unbeaten in three (2-0-1).