When Toronto FC play the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, the spotlight will be shining brightly on Michael Bradley. With Jozy Altidore joining the American national team, and Sebastian Giovinco injured, Bradley will be the lone TFC designated player to take to the pitch.
Bradley was called into US camp, but Toronto negotiated a deal with the American national team so they could keep their captain for the Seattle match. Bradley will join the Americans for their September 8 friendly against Brazil.
Entering Century Link Field on Saturday night, Bradley will try to buck a trend that has slowed him down this season: he hasn't been very good away from home. At BMO Field he has been one of the best players in the league, away from it his form has dipped significantly.
Bradley has played in 17 Major League Soccer matches so far this season: 9 at home and 8 on the road. In those home matches he has scored 3 goals and added 6 assists, while he only has one goal to his name on the road so far this season.
A large part of this is the fact that he shoots a lot more at home than he does on the road. At home he has put up 2.7 shots per game this season, while on the road he has only managed 1.6.
His passing remains decent whether he is at home or on the road: he has 85.6 per cent passing at home, which dips slightly to 83.4 on the road. However, it is the importance of those passes that differ as he completes 3 key passes per match at home and only 1.1 on the road according to Who Scored.
All of this has resulted in two man of the match performances at BMO Field, including last week against the Montreal Impact, and none away. As well, all of Bradley's team of the week honours have come after playing a match at home.
Why has this discrepancy been so large? Part of it has to do with when those home and away matches were played. The club started the season with seven games on the road, and six of Bradley's eight away matches has played so far this season came during that time.
At that point in the season Toronto was far from their current form, and had not really found a rhythm as a club. Bradley was hardly the only player to go through a slump during that part of the season.
Since that point Bradley has only played in two matches on the road. The first came against the New England Revolution, in which he scored the lone Toronto goal in a 1-1 draw. That was the game that kick started his season. The second was the recent 3-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls.
Bradley is not like Giovinco, while he can make the players around him better he requires them to be playing at a certain level to succeed. Toronto FC as a team have been significantly worse on the road than they have been at home.
As a club the team holds 51 per cent possession at home while the only have 45 per cent away. They also record a little more than one shot per game less on the road, and their passing success dips from 80 to 77 per cent.
So for the most part, Bradley's struggles away from home so far this season have been a byproduct of his team. If Toronto want Bradley to have success on the road, they need to collectively put him in a position to do so.
If ever there was a game for Bradley to break this streak of poor road form it would be this weekend. A win would break a Toronto FC record, and give the club the most road wins they have ever achieved with five.
With the spotlight on him it is a massive opportunity for him and the club to put the fact that they are about to make their first ever playoff appearance beyond any doubt.