SEATTLE — When Brian Schmetzer looks at Toronto FC’s lineup ahead of Sunday’s MLS Cup final showdown, he sees a team with plenty of dangerous players, but he also sees them boast a captain he couldn’t have more respect for.
Michael Bradley has become a polarizing figure in American soccer circles, beloved in Toronto by TFC fans for his role in turning the Canadian club into a title-winner, but often booed at away stadiums across the country by some U.S. Men’s National Team fans who consider him a negative influence on the USMNT despite his impressive accomplishments as a national team player.
Schmetzer doesn’t buy into the negative view of Bradley, and instead sees a player who has become one of the sports standard-bearers in the United States.
“I see in Michael Bradley one of the most accomplished American soccer players ever,” Schmetzer told SBI. “Look, (Landon) Donovan and (Clint) Dempsey are going to get all the accolades, some of the goalkeepers, Cobi (Jones). We’ve had a lot of good players, but if you look at the national team and the profile of the national team, whose raised that? Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley.”
Bradley’s uncompromising attitude hasn’t made him a very sympathetic figure, and his prominent role as captain of the U.S. team that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup has led to plenty of scorn from some USMNT fans. While that may be, it is tough to deny his credentials, both on the club level, and with the United States. He played in two World Cups, made 151 national team appearances, and enjoyed some of his best national team moments against arch-rival Mexico. On the club level, he enjoyed success in top European leagues before returning to MLS and leading TFC to what is now three MLS Cup finals in four years.
Bradley’s influence on the American game definitely doesn’t go unnoticed by TFC’s opponent in Sunday’s MLS Cup final. Sounders and USMNT midfielder Cristian Roldan sang Bradley’s praises this week, pointing out that he had Bradley’s USMNT jersey when he was growing up.
“That’s someone I really look up to,” Roldan said of Bradley. “The way he carries himself. I’ve seen it first hand the past two years now. He’s the ultimate professional. A true leader, a true captain, so anytime I face him I want him to feel that I’m good enough to be on the same field as him.”
Jordan Morris first experienced playing alongside Bradley when he made his USMNT debut as a college player in 2014.
“Right when I came in as a young college kid, obviously I’m nervous, and him and Jozy were both great helping me to understand the ropes,” Morris told SBI. “They were guys I looked up to, and I grew up watching them play.”
There is a chance that some in the sold-out crowd at CenturyLink Field may boo Bradley when his name is announced, partly because of his role as TFC captain, but also because of the animosity some USMNT fans feel towards him. As far as Schmetzer is concerned, Bradley’s national team career, and influence as an American player, are worthy of cheers and not jeers.
“Michael’s done everything, in my opinion, that’s required of him,” Schmetzer told SBI. “Yeah, he gets some grief because the national team program is not really good right now, right? Or some people think it’s not in a good place? That’s not all Michael’s fault. It’s everybody’s fault.”