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Michael Bradley: Columbus market has not kept pace in MLS

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The USA captain gave a blunt assessment of Mapfre Stadium.

MLS: Eastern Conference Championship-Toronto FC at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Mapfre Stadium - though it did not go by its current sponsor’s name back then - was the venue of one of Michael Bradley’s most famous performances.

Then just 21 years old, Bradley scored both goals in a 2-0 USA win over Mexico back in 2009.

But if the Toronto FC captain has any nostalgia for the Columbus Crew’s ageing home, he did not show it after the first leg of the Eastern Conference final on Tuesday night.

Amid the threat of relocation to Austin, Texas currently hanging over the Crew, Bradley spoke frankly of his belief that the Columbus market has “fallen behind” as MLS has continued to grow.

“Look, on one hand you feel for the small group of loyal supporters that they have who have been here since the beginning, who continue to support the team and come out week after week.

“On the other hand, you can’t deny the fact that things here have really fallen behind in terms of the atmosphere in the stadium, the quality of the stadium, what it’s like to play here.

"I don’t know who’s at fault for that... there’s a lot going on, and I get that - and like I said, as an outsider I don't know what that falls on.

“But again, the reality is just that as the league has continued to grow and grow - and this is not the only one, but this is one of a few markets that has not kept pace."

It should be noted that Bradley was speaking after having his every touch of the ball booed due to the USA’s recent failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

When asked if the hostile reception he has been the recipient of away from home of late lights in fire in him, the 30-year-old was equally to the point.

“No,” he replied. “I’ve got bigger things to worry about than whether a few people in Columbus don’t like me.”

Jonathan Osorio struck a more sympathetic tone.

“It was really nice,” Osorio said of the atmosphere brought by the Crew fans as well as 1,000 or so travelling from Toronto. “Obviously this is a crowd trying to save their team, and it sure seemed like it today.

“Credit to them. I’m happy for the fans and hope all the best happens for them.”