Michael Bradley: “In the moment the frustration and heart break of losing a final like this, that’s the overriding emotion.” (Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
SEATTLE — Losing in the MLS Cup final was a bitter pill to swallow for Michael Bradley.
The Toronto FC captain entered the game optimistic that he and his teammates would bring home the Philip K. Anschutz Trophy for the second time in four years.
Instead, the Reds flew back home empty-handed after a 3-1 loss to Seattle Sounders FC and after a tremendous playoff run that saw them upend favorite New York City FC, 2-0, and Atlanta United, 2-1, on the road.
Toronto FC dominated the first half and controlled the pace for decent stretches of the match, but could not finish. The visitors paid the price by conceding three second-half goals.
“In the moment the frustration and heart break of losing a final like this, that’s the overriding emotion,” a sullen Bradley said in a rather somber Toronto FC locker room.
Bradley held court with the media in the middle of the room while some teammates sat silently by their lockers.
“With time the group, as always learns from moments like this, experiences like this and make sure they get used in the right way to push us forward,” he added.
Toronto FC secured its first and only MLS Cup in 2017.
Bradley, 32, took no solace in a season in which Toronto FC entered the match on a 13-game unbeaten streak.
“Right now the feeling is not a positive one,” he said. “That’s normal when you lose a final like that. There’s no solace, there’s no consolation prize. That part hurts, but in the process OI think there’s a big pride inside our group of who are what we’re all about. and that part will always be there.”
Toronto FC outplayed the hosts in the opening side but had no goals to show for its efforts. Kelvin Leerdam broke the deadlock as his shot was deflected in by a Toronto FC defender in the 57th minute before second-half substitute Victor Rodriguez further buried the Canadian club with a goal in the 76th minute.
The visitors were forced to push up and conceded two goals off the counter attack. Bradley would rather lose by the 3-1 score line than 1-0.
“You go for it and the process of going for it, there can be a few plays that go the other way,” he said.
“Finals are tight. Both teams step on the field with everything to play for. Concentration is at the absolute highest level. And so you know that to break the game open you’re going to need that extra bit of sharpness, that extra bit of quality, a little bit of a break, a bounce, a deflection. They got that today and they were able then to use that to get the second goal, which really then tilts the bar in their favor. Then we really have no choice but to try to throw things forward.”
After the final whistle Bradley looked for his seven-year-old son, who sat in the stands during the game at CenturyLink Field.
“My son is seven-years-old and if it’s possible he probably wanted us to win more than me, which is saying something,” Bradley said. “At that point I’m just trying to make sure that he understands it’s all part of it. Life goes on.”