Toronto FC: Bob Bradley still has plenty to prove despite past success

Jul 3, 2021; Sandy, Utah, USA; Los Angeles FC head coach Bob Bradley reacts before a match against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 3, 2021; Sandy, Utah, USA; Los Angeles FC head coach Bob Bradley reacts before a match against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports /

Bob Bradley is one of the most successful head coaches in MLS history and yet, as he prepares for his first season with Toronto FC, he has still underachieved.

New Toronto FC head coach Bob Bradley is ranked as one of the best in MLS history. Certainly, the pedigree is there from his time in North America, along with his tenure in charge of the United States men’s team.

Regardless, you can still make the contention that Bradley is an underachiever in some respects. Before we consider this further however, lets recap his previous success during a tremendous head coaching career.

Bradley started off with a bang in 1998, after becoming the first head coach in Chicago Fire history. He would help the expansion side win the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup, unsurprisingly going on to be named MLS Coach of the Year.

The 63-year-old once again won the Open Cup with the Fire in 2000. He would advance to a third Open Cup final in 2003 as head coach of the New York Red Bulls (at the time called the MetroStars), but ironically lost to his previous club in a tight 1-0 affair.

Bradley was named MLS Coach of the Year for a second time in 2006, while in charge of Chivas USA. This achievement was in large part due to taking over a club which had struggled during its inaugural season and turning them into a playoff qualifier in their second year.

Bradely then went to coach on the international stage, first with the United States and then Egypt. His time coaching at this level was highlighted by taking the U.S. to the final 16 of the 2010 World Cup.

The Montclair, New Jersey native also spent time as a manager around Europe, in Norway, France and Wales. (He was the first American to manage a club in a European top division.) He would finally return to MLS to take over Los Angeles FC, who were another expansion side which started play in 2018.

Bradley would once again prove to be a success as he guided LAFC to three playoff appearance in four seasons, while winning a supporters shield and his third Coach of the Year award in 2019. He also advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League final the following year, albeit resulting in a heart-breaking 2-1 loss to Tigres UANL.

With all his success, Bradley ranks third all-time in MLS for regular season wins, while also being tied for third in respect of post-season victories. He also became an inductee of the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2014.

And yet, for all of his achievements at different levels and in various countries around the world, Bradley has still underachieved in some respects. More specifically, when it comes to the biggest prize MLS has to offer.

The former Swansea City manager has just the one MLS Cup to his name. And, as referenced previously, this came more than two decades ago in his first season as a head coach.

There are six head coaches who have won multiple MLS Cups; Bruce Arena leads the way with five, while the other five have two apiece. For someone with Bradley’s reputation and success, he should also be on this exclusive list.

The question is, what does all of this mean for Bradley in Toronto? In reality, his experience of taking over expansion franchises or struggling sides and immediately helping them compete, bodes well for TFC.

Combined with his success at the international level, confidence is high in Toronto FC rebounding from arguably the worst season in club history. There has been a major overhaul of the roster, undoubtedly highlighted by the signing of Lorenzo Insigne.

After a solid pre-season, Bradley sees the club headed in the right direction. As per Charles Boehm of, the head coach said:

"“I’m excited about what we’re doing in Toronto. There’s a really good mix of some experienced players, some really talented young players and as always, trying to establish a better idea of what our football can look like. It starts always on the training field, as you implement different ideas.”"

One of the keys to Bradley’s success as a head coach is his meticulous dedication to players on an individual basis, particularly the younger ones. He is genuinely interested in getting to know them and help improve their game.

A prime example of this is Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, a winger who has been used as a right fullback during the pre-season. At the grand old age of 17, he is expected to see an increase on the 11 regular season games he appeared in during last year.

While Bradley has seen positive progress during pre-season, he knows plenty of work is still to come. As per Boehm, he said:

"“I don’t think any team, even experienced teams, start the year in their best way. I think it’s a process that requires real games, week after week, and then you see how certain situations evolve. So I feel good about the work so far and I think we’ll be ready for the opener in Dallas. And then we’ll take it from there as we keep trying to build on each match.”"

Ultimately, the Reds are going to be just fine under the watchful eye of Bradley. Whether this translates into MLS Cup success however, is another thing altogether.

Similar to their new coach (and sporting director), TFC has underachieved themselves, with just the one MLS Cup despite three appearances in the big game. They should have won more, with the match in 2016 versus the Seattle Sounders representing the main lost opportunity.

In this respect, the union of Toronto FC and Bradley could be just what’s needed. Perhaps together, they can get over the hurdle of underachieving when it comes to the MLS Cup and bring more championship glory to Southern Ontario.

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How confident are you in Bradley, ahead of Saturday’s opening game of the MLS campaign? What level of success do you predict during his first season in charge of Toronto FC? Let us know in the comments section below.