ussoccer.com recently visited Michael Bradley in Toronto, where the U.S. MNT midfielder has made his home following a summer move to Toronto FC. Bradley took a moment during filming for “Inside: U.S. Soccer’s March to Brazil” to speak about moving with his family to Canada.
ussoccer.com: What drew you to Toronto? The soccer part is obvious, but can you talk about what was enticing for you about the city itself?
Michael Bradley: “I’ve been lucky enough over the years to play with some different Canadian players and, more than anything, have really close relationships with some of them. I played with Paul Stalteri in Germany at Borussia Moenchengladbach and he and his wife are very close friends of ours. Will Johnson is a guy I grew up with. Rob Friend is a guy I played with in Holland and in Germany. He and his wife are great friends.
“You always hear them talking about Toronto and what a great city it is. Obviously I had experiences being there different times – in 2007 for the Under-20 World Cup, with the National Team in the summer of 2012, and this past summer for a couple of days with Roma.
“What you can see right away is that it’s a diverse city with people from all different backgrounds. It’s not altogether different than the area I grew up in around New Jersey. You realize right away when you get here, it’s a sports city and the people here love their teams. They’re passionate, love watching their teams play and want so badly to have winning teams. They are excited watching teams they can be proud of.”
ussoccer.com: You grew up in different cities in the USA and have lived all over the place during your career. Does Toronto remind you of any of those places and have you had any unique experiences in the city so far?
MB: “In a lot of ways it reminds me of places I have been and places I spent a lot of time in. I think Toronto has a little bit of New York and New Jersey in it. It has a little bit of Chicago in it and it has a little bit of a European feel. It’s an amazing city, one that we’re still getting to know, but in all ways we couldn’t be happier.
“The first night we got here – we flew in from Rome – and from the police officer who was waiting for us when we landed, to the people at the hotel, to the people at the club and in the city, you immediately got such a sense of how proud they are of their city and of their country and how excited they are for you to be there.
“Our home opener, the guy comes out to sing the Canadian National Anthem, he sang the first two word, ‘O’ Canada,’ and from there the crowd took the rest. It was one of the more special things I’ve seen in a stadium.”
ussoccer.com: You have frequently mentioned you wanted to be a professional player since you were a little kid. Is having a family also something you also aspired to do in your life?”
MB: “Yes, definitely. I think when you’re lucky enough to grow up in a close family, to grow up in a loving family that you’re proud of, at a certain point you realize how special that is and know how important that is in life.
“At an early age I knew that you could have all these other things going on and things could be great professionally, but that was only part of it if you didn’t have people close to you to love and share it with. I have always wanted a wife and kids to come home to, and sisters and parents to be close to as the people around who I love and care about.”
ussoccer.com: Your son Luca is just about 18 months old. Does he recognize what you do yet?
MB: “It’s funny, in this past stretch, when I was gone for a long period of time at preseason, he started to understand what it means to him and his routine. My wife called me one morning after he woke up, ran into the bedroom looking for me and when I wasn’t there had this confused look on his face like, “Wait, where is he?’’ It took him like two or three seconds until something caught his attention, he started chasing the dog or playing with his toys, but he understands what it means when I’m gone because when I come back he gets excited.
“And just recently he’s started to understand I play soccer. For our first home game the other week, Amanda said it was the first time he saw me on the field. I went over to take a corner kick that was really close to him and he recognized me and got really excited. The other day they went to the park and there was a men’s league soccer game going and he kept wanting to run over to the field and shout, ‘Dada, Dada.’ So he gets it a little bit.”
ussoccer.com: Growing up, you had your dad involved in the game and with teams. Are you looking forward to having your son as a part of your life as a soccer player?
MB: “I can only talk from my experience and how special it was for me to share soccer with my dad. I want Luca to do things that he loves and things that he’s passionate about, but I’m excited for him to come out to training with me. Even now, my wife will bring him up at the end of training some days and he’ll run around on the field and kick the ball around. Afterwards, I’ll walk him through the locker room and he’ll look around at everything. As he gets older, I’m excited for him to be able to see all that and experience that because I had that when I was a little guy. Who knows at the end if he’ll love the game as much as I did or if he’ll want to play as much as I did, but it’ll be something special he and I will be able to share together.”
ussoccer.com: Has having a family changed what drives you professionally?
MB: “No, it hasn’t. The things that motivated me as a soccer player and a competitor before are still the same things that motivate me now. When I’m competing I want to be the best and try to help whatever team I’m on be better. Those are the things that I’ve always been about. Those are the things that I’ve always focused on. Having a family just makes those great moments that much greater because you have people who love you and care about you more than anything in the whole world there to share those moments. You realize how special that is.”
ussoccer.com: A professional soccer player is in a constant cycle of preparation and games. There’s always a week of training and then a match at the end of the week. There’s only so much preparation you have before having a child! And after the fact, there’s no real chance to get back on the training pitch the next week…
MB: “I can still remember when we found out she was pregnant. We both looked at each other like: ‘Are we ready for this?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, of course we are. We’re not going to be any more ready.’ At some point you’re as ready as you’re going to be to be parents. That last little bit, the last little part is so unknown and only becoming a parent can teach you what that last part is all about. It’s an amazing opportunity to have a family of your own. It’s an amazing feeling to walk in the door at the end of the day and see somebody run up to you and look at you like you’re the greatest, most special thing in the whole world. Being able to share that with your wife, the person who you love more than anything, the person who in our profession is the most important person as far as being unselfish and loving and caring and supportive of everything no matter what, is incredible.”
“Being a mom is hard. Being a mom to a little boy whose dad is a professional soccer player and gone as much as I am and all that entails is that much harder. It takes a special person to be able to deal with all that, understand it and still be able to put your son and yourself ahead of everything else at all times. For that I’ll be forever grateful to my wife.”
ussoccer.com: As much as there’s a tendency to claim having a kid changes you, or makes you see things in a different perspective, it seems like having a family and raising Luca comes pretty natural to you?
MB: “I’m still the same person, I still care about the same things. But I’m a simple guy: I love my family, I love my wife, I love my son. I love spending time with them and even with my extended family, having our moms and dads, our brothers and sisters feel a part of everything that we’re doing.
“And, I love soccer. I love the game. I love the feeling of going into training every day, trying to work, trying to improve. I love the feeling of stepping on the field on Saturday and having the chance to compete, to play.
“People ask, ‘What are your hobbies? What do you do when you’re not playing? How do you switch off?’ Well, I spend time with my family. When you get married, when you have kids, you learn that you have to put them before you in so many situations and how important that is. Deep down I’m that person.”
CHICAGO (November 22, 2016) – U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati has named Bruce Arena as the new head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team. The most decorated head coach in American soccer history, Arena most famously guided the U.S. to its best finish in the World Cup in more than 80 years with a quarterfinal appearance in 2002 and returns to the job where he amassed the most wins of any coach in U.S. MNT history.
Arena, who will assume the role on Thursday, Dec. 1, will be formally introduced during a teleconference with U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET.
“When we considered the possible candidates to take over the Men’s National Team at this time, Bruce was at the top of the list,” said Gulati. “His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying, and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach. We all know Bruce will be fully committed to preparing the players for the next eight qualifying games and earning a berth to an eighth-straight FIFA World Cup in Russia.”
“Any time you get the opportunity to coach the National Team it’s an honor,” said Arena. “I’m looking forward to working with a strong group of players that understand the challenge in front of them after the first two games of the Hex. Working as a team, I’m confident that we’ll take the right steps forward to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.”
The Most Accomplished Coach in U.S. MNT History
Arena steps back into the job that he held over an eight-year tenure from 1998-2006. With a record of 71-30-29, the Brooklyn-born manager is by far the winningest coach in U.S. MNT history as well as the only head coach to lead the USA at two FIFA World Cups.
His crowning achievement came at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan, where he led the MNT to a 3-2 upset of Portugal in their opening match before advancing out of the group and earning a 2-0 shutout against Mexico in the Round of 16. Benefiting from the experience of his previous World Cup Qualifying campaign, the U.S. MNT advanced to the 2006 FIFA World Cup with relative ease, booking a place in Germany with three matches to spare in CONCACAF’s Final Round. Drawn into the ‘Group of Death’, a nine-man U.S. squad put in a gutsy performance to earn a 1-1 draw against eventual World Cup champions Italy.
Arena also led the U.S. to its second and third regional titles with championships at the 2002 and 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cups, as well as a third-place finish at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup.
A History of Success
Beyond his National Team tenure, Arena has found success along every stop of his 40-plus year coaching career. The Long Island native won five NCAA Division 1 National Championships with the University of Virginia, including a still-standing record of four-straight from 1991-94.
His collegiate coaching tenure led him to his first international job, taking the reins of the U.S. U-23 team leading up to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta where Arena guided the USA to a respectable 1-1-1 showing. Arena balanced his U-23 duties with his head coaching role of D.C. United in the inaugural year of Major League Soccer and helped to turn the club into the nascent league’s first true powerhouse. D.C. won four domestic titles on Arena’s watch – the 1996 and 1997 MLS Cups, 1996 U.S. Open Cup and 1997 Supporters Shield – as well as international hardware with the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup and 1998 Interamerican Cup.
Following his eight-year tenure with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Arena returned to club coaching for a brief stint with the New York Red Bulls in 2006-07, before joining the LA Galaxy the following year. In LA, Arena worked to make the Galaxy the premier club in MLS, coaching the side to three MLS Cup titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014, as well as two Supporter Shield wins in 2010 and 2011. As the only five-time MLS Cup winning head coach, Arena has worked with numerous coaches throughout his time in Major League Soccer, serving as a mentor to many.
A three-time MLS Coach of the Year winner, Arena was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010 and five years later was named the recipient of the of the prestigious Werner Fricker Builder Award, the highest honor that an individual can receive from the U.S. Soccer Federation.Read more