Veteran coach Bradley making early impact for Toronto

March 11, 2022 GMT
New Toronto FC head coach Bob Bradley walks across the pitch after seeing his team lose 4-1 to the New York Red Bulls in their home opener in an MLS soccer match, in Toronto, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
New Toronto FC head coach Bob Bradley walks across the pitch after seeing his team lose 4-1 to the New York Red Bulls in their home opener in an MLS soccer match, in Toronto, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
New Toronto FC head coach Bob Bradley walks across the pitch after seeing his team lose 4-1 to the New York Red Bulls in their home opener in an MLS soccer match, in Toronto, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
New Toronto FC head coach Bob Bradley walks across the pitch after seeing his team lose 4-1 to the New York Red Bulls in their home opener in an MLS soccer match, in Toronto, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
New Toronto FC head coach Bob Bradley walks across the pitch after seeing his team lose 4-1 to the New York Red Bulls in their home opener in an MLS soccer match, in Toronto, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (AP) — While Toronto has yet to record a win in its first two games under Bob Bradley, the veteran coach is already making a difference.

Players say Bradley challenges them to think more about their actions and options on the field. It’s demanding but rewarding, they say.

Just how rewarding will be put to another test Saturday when Toronto (0-1-1) visits high-scoring Columbus (1-0-1).

Toronto, which has given up five goals in two games, will be without suspended star center back Carlos Salcedo and injured fullback Jacob Shaffelburg (leg).

Shaffelburg’s absence may open the door to Kadin Chung, who made his Toronto debut off the bench in last week’s 4-1 loss to the visiting New York Red Bulls.

Playing under Bradley, who has coached five Major League Soccer teams, has been an eye-opening experience for Chung, who spent the last three seasons in the Canadian Premier League.

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“It’s been amazing,” said Chung. “Obviously the levels he’s coached at is very high, for decades now. Just to listen to him and talk with him, I can have a discussion with him for hours about football. That’s the kind of guy he is. I really want to take everything in. I want to learn. I want to take his ideas and transform them to the pitch.

“But as a coach and for this team, it’s huge because it is a new group. But I feel like everyone’s buying into the ideas he’s putting out and everyone’s trying to do those things in training, tries to translate it to the game. Obviously it’s not going to be perfect right away but I feel like over time this team is going to be something special to watch.”

With Bradley, who has also coached clubs in France, Norway and England’s Premier League as well as the U.S. and Egyptian national teams, it’s all about raising the football IQ.

“I’ll say this. I’ve never been more challenged mentally with regards to tactics and decision-making than with Bob,” said Chung. “Because he’s always asking me questions. Like I’ll make a pass or a dribble and then he’ll challenge me on video, let’s say, and he’ll bring it back and he’ll say ‘Could you have done this? What do you think about this?’ And it gets me thinking. And for the next training session, it will be in the back of my mind always.”

“And that’s what makes him, in my opinion, a great coach,” Chung added. “Because everyone’s always trying to implement his ideas and his beliefs. And if everyone can do that collectively, you’re looking at a very dangerous system, for sure.”

Bradley asks his players to think on their feet.

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“Defensively, often times it’s just seeing things a little faster — faster reactions. Ability to assess a situation. Is it a moment,” to step up and try to win a ball? Is it more of a controlling moment?” the coach said. “We’ve made a few mistakes where we’ve been a little bit anxious to try and win a ball. Maybe we should have been smarter in a given moment. There’s other times where maybe we’re a little slow to step up.

“So it’s not one thing. It’s just a package of ideas that I think we have worked on from the beginning that just need to get better.”

The coach pulled center back Chris Mavinga at halftime of the season-opening 1-1 tie at FC Dallas, later providing a pithy take on Mavigna’s play.

“I think he understood there were some things there that needed to be sharper,” Bradley said.

“One of things I’ve mentioned is just his ability to keep track of more than one thing,” he added. “Chris is athletically a gifted player. But if in certain moments you just rely on your athleticism, then you can still get caught in tough spots. I think we’re just trying always to always get Chris to be a little more aware of different situations, read things a little bit better, make good decisions.

“But in a way that’s what we try to do with everybody. so it’s not like that’s a special way of working just with Chris.”

Mavinga, who did not see action against the Red Bulls, will likely return to the starting lineup in Salcedo’s absence.

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