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‘I feel really good’: Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley excited to return following ankle surgery

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After missing the past seven months, Toronto FC captain MB4 is looking forward to game action when the MLS season resumes next month in Orlando, Florida

MLS: MLS Cup-Toronto FC vs Seattle FC
November 10, 2019—Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley (4) walks out of the tunnel during half time of the MLS Cup against the Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field.
(Buchanan/USA TODAY Sports)

TORONTO, Canada—It’s been 142 days since Toronto FC established an approximate four-month (roughly 120-day) timeline for the return of Michael Bradley following successful surgery on his right ankle. The midfielder tweaked it all the way back during the team’s MLS Cup Final loss to the Seattle Sounders on Nov. 10, and on Thursday, the club captain confirmed what many TFC fans anticipated could be a byproduct of the stop in play.

“I’m doing well, thanks,” said Bradley, when asked about his four-month rehab on a media call. “[...] The timing of the return to play is actually a good one for me, personally. We had our first day of small group training this morning (Thursday); I was in that. At this point, physically, I feel really good, my ankle feels really good, and now it’s just about training, getting back into real training in a way that prepares me for games.

“But in terms of the rehab side, that part is done.”

With the league suspending play due to COVID-19 on Mar 12, Bradley misses just two matches despite last appearing in game action some 212 days ago. The holding midfielder actually suffered the injury in the first half of the eventual 3-1 loss, but like the machine he has proven to be, he’d go on to finish the 90 minutes unaware of the long, unpredictable road ahead.

At first, Bradley himself downplayed the injury in the team’s end-of-year media scrum, telling reporters back on Nov. 15 that he believed his ankle would take “two-to-three weeks to calm down.” That, obviously, wasn’t the case as the diagnosis on the 32-year-old’s ankle proved to be more complex than initially thought.

Seven months, several opinions, and one another animated Jozy Altidore rant about the team’s medical staff later, Bradley, who left money on the table to return to Toronto this offseason, is eager to return to game action when the 2020 MLS season resumes in Orlando next month.

“The work that I have put in the past few months, and more specifically the last four-to-six weeks on the field, where you’re doing individual work to build up fitness, strength, sharpness, the durability of the ankle… all those things have left me in a good spot,” added Bradley. “As I’ve said, I’m just as excited as everyone else to get back into team training and games because that’s what I need and that’s where I am.”

On Wednesday, Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Association reached an agreement to return to play after several proposals back and forth. At one point during negotiations, however, the league threatened to lock out its players—a ploy that the TFC leader frowned heavily upon, especially given these unprecedented times.

“Labour negotiations are never easy. When you add in the fact these were taking place in the middle of a pandemic... we were all in unchartered territory.” said Bradley. “There’s no secret that there were some difficult moments along the way... those (heavy-handed tactics) didn’t set well at all with the players.”

“If you want the process to take on a different tone, if the hope is that in the end there is going to be an outcome where both sides are really happy and both sides feel good about the way it all went, you have to be able to think about things from the other side’s point of view. There’s a need for perspective on both sides, and like i said, from our standpoint, we didn’t feel really good about that and how the league handled certain parts of the whole process.”

Bradley’s last appearance for Toronto FC in the MLS Cup Final was his 200th for the club. He has picked up 13 goals and 16 assists since joining TFC back in 2014, and despite being there for almost every bone-crunching tackle since, the 6-foot-1 midfielder has never been shown Red.

Bradley has also always been involved in bettering the league on and off the field; he shared a strong stance on the current state of the world, specifically in regards to the racial injustice and police brutality that’s been transpiring in his home country.

“I think we have to talk about it,” said Bradley, when asked about the current situation of the United States. “It’s been not talked about for too long & it’s a big part of why we are where we are still. Like everybody, I’ve spent the last week, 10 days watching, listening, reading & in some ways, you don’t even know where to start.

“Once you do start, you can’t really finish because there’s so much that needs to be said, so much that we need to talk about. I’m horrified, I’m angry, I’m disgusted, and honestly I’m embarrassed that we still live in a world where Black men, Black women, Black children fear for their lives on a daily basis.”

The Toronto FC captain would go on to discuss the touchy subject for another 15 minutes in a very open and honest interview. He’d demonstrate passion, knowledge, and a willingness to learn more about what he can do to help.

He also had a message about the current President of the United States.

“We have a President who is completely empty. There isn’t a moral bone is his body,” said Bradley. “... If we want any chance to start to fix those things, then Trump can’t be president, it’s as simple as that.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s my captain.