Bradley qui­etly on his way to spec­tac­u­lar sea­son

Waterloo Region Record - - SPORTS - Neil David­son

Oth­ers may get the head­lines but Toronto FC cap­tain Michael Bradley is qui­etly com­pil­ing a spec­tac­u­lar MLS sea­son.

Bradley leads the league in ball re­cov­er­ies (259) this sea­son as well as passes per game (76.8). His pass com­ple­tion rate of 88.2 per cent is also tops in MLS.

Many of Toronto’s 59 goals this sea­son started with Bradley win­ning the ball back and then send­ing it for­ward. He has also pre­vented more than a few in the Toronto end.

And the 30-year-old U.S. in­ter­na­tional cap­tain just keeps rolling. While miss­ing four TFC out­ings due to in­ter­na­tional du­ties, Bradley has played ev­ery minute of the 24 reg­u­lar-sea­son games he has ap­peared in this sea­son.

Per­haps more re­mark­ably, in his last 35 com­pet­i­tive matches for club and coun­try, Bradley has been on the los­ing side just three times (22-3-10). He has played 90 min­utes in each of those 35 games.

Bradley points to tak­ing care of his body, from diet to sleep. And while ac­knowl­edg­ing some in­juries are un­avoid­able, he has dodged the bul­let re­cently.

“The ba­sis for it all is how much I love to play,” he said. “I love to train, I love to com­pete. At a cer­tain point in a long sea­son, there’s cer­tain guys who men­tally or phys­i­cally can get worn out. I’m lucky in that re­gard ... that’s not me.”

Bradley looks to help league­lead­ing Toronto (17-3-8) take an­other step towards the Sup­port­ers Shield on Satur­day night when the team vis­its the Los An­ge­les Gal­axy (7-14-6).

Toronto will be with­out star strik­ers Se­bas­tian Giovinco and Jozy Alti­dore, spared the long trip to heal up from some mi­nor in­juries at home.

A win and Toronto can match its club-record six-game win streak set ear­lier this sea­son (April 21-May 13). TFC has scored three or more goals in each of the games on the cur­rent run.

Toronto is also un­de­feated in its last five away matches (3-0-2), the se­cond-long­est road un­de­feated streak in club his­tory (the record is eight games, Aug. 14, 2016-March 18, 2017).

But Toronto has not scored in its last 184 min­utes at StubHub Cen­ter where the Gal­axy are 5-2-1 against TFC (in­clud­ing 2014 and 2015 shutouts). L.A. is un­de­feated in the last six home meet­ings of the se­ries (4-0-2).

While the Gal­axy have strug­gled this sea­son, Bradley says StubHub Cen­ter is al­ways a spe­cial place to visit.

“It doesn’t mat­ter the sea­son they’ve had, the form they’re in, you play the Gal­axy in L.A. and it’s a big game,” said Bradley. “So we’re ex­cited for it, very ex­cited.”

Toronto won the only meet­ing be­tween the two last sea­son, a 1-0 vic­tory June 18 at BMO Field. That win snapped a 10game Gal­axy un­de­feated streak against Toronto, dat­ing back to May 31, 2008.

In se­cur­ing a play­off berth with last week­end’s 4-0 home win over the San Jose Earthquakes, Toronto joined a list of five other clubs to clinch with six weeks left in the sea­son (D.C. United, 2006; L.A. Gal­axy, 2011; San Jose, 2012; Seat­tle, 2014; and FC Dal­las, 2016).

Of note, only the 2011 Gal­axy went on to win the MLS Cup.

Toronto, which has scored 17 goals in its last five league games, goes into the week­end with a goal dif­fer­en­tial of plus-33 (59 goals for, 26 goals against). The only team to have a higher goal dif­fer­en­tial (41) over a full sea­son is the 1998 Gal­axy.

JON BLACKER, THE CANADIAN PRESS

TFC cap­tain Michael Bradley leads the league in ball re­cov­er­ies (259) this sea­son as well as pass com­ple­tion rate (88.2 per cent).

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