Michael Bradley On Stabaek, TFC, And A New Chapter
“The reward of winning trophies, of building something that was was really special for a period of time. That was all amazing, but again, things in life go certain ways and both for me and my family, now we’re excited for a brand new adventure.”
Former Toronto FC Captain Michael Bradley led the club through its highest highs and steadfastly did his duty as they endured the lowest of lows, too.
The former US National team captain spent ten years with the Major League Soccer side, helping them to a historic treble in 2017 and – particularly in the later years – deputizing the centre-back position and doing whatever was needed as TFC struggled to show flickers of the spark it had back in the glory days.
After handing off the armband one last time, his first coaching gig started just two days later. Rather than being with the club he’d led for ten seasons, as many head expected, he declined the offer to stick around from John Herdman, who was hired to coach the side in August but let Terry Dunfield rack up loss after loss before stepping in himself for the last game of the campaign.
Instead, 36-year-old Michael Bradley is now assisting his father in Norway’s Stabaek Fotball, experiencing a relegation battle first-hand. As his first interview with the club reveals, the move has been simmering for some time.
The Call For Coaching Has Been Coming
Michael Bradley didn’t shy away from it as his retirement press conference, and he didn’t shy away from it at his introduction to Stabaek: coaching has been his long-term ambition for the last few years.
“There’s a period when you’re young or and when your career begins where playing is your dream, and you can’t think about anything else. You don’t want to think about anything else. But obviously, as you get older as you get older, and as you start to see the end, then you start to think: okay, what’s what’s going to be next?'”
“For me, the most natural, most logical thing was that I was going to start to work to become a coach. I love the game. I love being on the field every day. I love the work and everything that goes into it.”
When a hamstring injury sidelined the TFC Captain for three months this season, he used the opportunity to work towards obtaining his coaching badges in Europe. With the rest of his playing days now increasingly finite and TFC proving stability-adverse, he announced his impending retirement just one week before the club’s final match of the campaign.
He Knew He Wanted To Join Stabaek
Michael Bradley hadn’t started the 2023 MLS season with plans to retire, but after the sacking of his father and his own injury struggles, the seeds of a rapidly-approaching post-playing career grew in his mind. In September, Bob Bradley completed his return to Stabaek in a bid to save them from relegation, having previously taken them to Europa League heights in 2015.
For his son – who had never been able to visit the Oslo-based football club during his father’s prior stint in charge – the chance to be part of that was tantalizing.
“At a certain point when the opportunity came for my dad to come back here, I knew that I wanted to be here as quickly as possible,” confirmed Bradley, who flew in to join the side two days after wrapping up his own playing career. While he had revealed his intentions to jump into coaching following his last match, few imagined it would take off as quickly as it did.
As it turns out, he’d dipped his toes into the environment at Stabaek virtually, well ahead of the official move.
He’s Been Watching The Club’s Training Videos For Some Time
Even before the move come to maturation, Michael Bradley has been dialed in to how things work at Stabaek.
“Technology nowadays is amazing,” says Bradley. “Every evening in Toronto, I’d get home. After dinner and the kids were asleep, I’d open my computer and I’d go through training and watch everything, and then obviously matches on the weekend. That part, I really enjoyed it – it meant that obviously when I got here, I had a little bit more of an idea of what had been going on.”
The Timing Was Right For Both Sides
While Stabaek was obviously a big draw for Bradley given how he had already tuned in to their training sessions, the opportunity to experience what a relegation battle is invaluable for a fledgling coach.
“The experience to come here in a really important moment in the season, and just take everything in, to look around to speak to the players, to learn from the players, to watch my Dad and Azar and Andrea and to learn from them to understand how things are working behind the scenes. Understand what a morning is like, to prepare the video, to prepare for training. Yeah, everything is in it for me. So as a very young coach, to have an experience like this, I’m extremely fortunate.”
Nothing But Love For Toronto
Having led Toronto FC to the highest of highs and endured with them through some very lows, Michael Bradley still has nothing but love for Toronto and a playing career that took him all over the world – and to multiple World Cups.
“You know, I love every second of playing football, I never took one moment for granted,” says Michael. “The training, the matches, the good moments, the bad moments. I loved every part of it.”
While no player likes to hang up their boots, Bradley says he’s been excited for the next chapter of both his life and career, and that motivating factor has made the fast transition easier.
“I had had ten incredible years in Toronto. We had, both professionally and personally, for our family. We had some incredible, incredible moments. Our daughter was born there. The reward of winning trophies, of building something that was was really special for a period of time. That was all amazing. But again, things in life go certain ways and both for me and my family, now we’re excited for a brand new adventure.”
After 308 matches leading Toronto FC, Michael Bradley is now two weeks into his first-ever coaching stint. His playing career saw him demonstrate absolute professionalism, leadership, and a level of discipline not seen in many players, and those qualities will lend him well as a coach – and to no surprise, it seems he’s entering Stabaek Fotball with both eyes open.
While whether Stabaek remains above the relegation zone remains to be seen, one thing is certain: Michael Bradley appears to have all the right ingredients to grow from this experience, so it’ll be interesting to see what opportunities the veteran leader will jump to in the years to come.
Source: Stabaek Fotball