As per a directive issued by Major League Soccer, players undergoing rehab for serious injuries are allowed to access their club’s training facility, so Bradley and club physiotherapist Shohei Miyauchi have been working on the veteran midfielder’s training and rehab most days. The good news is, Bradley, who underwent surgery on Jan. 21 in New York City to fix loose cartilage fragments (and to fix an osteochondral defect) in his right ankle joint, is doing well..
“I haven’t missed a beat, so that part’s been great,” Bradley said in a conference call. “And yes, I am running, so we’ll continue to progress in terms of speed and volume and all those things. So that’s positive. (And) I’ve got a little home gym set up in my basement that is pretty good and pretty functional in terms of most things that you need.”
The original prognosis was that Bradley would be out of action until June — meaning that the seventh-year TFC standout would have missed up to 20 regular season MLS games. But with the league suspended indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it turns out that the number of games he will ultimately miss will be far fewer. When MLS resumes play (league officials are working on a number of scenarios based on when city, provincial and state lock downs are relaxed), Bradley will most likely be ready to play — as will newly signed winger Pablo Piatti who, like Bradley, missed the first two games of the season because of injury. TFC opened the 2020 campaign in San Jose on Feb.29 with a 2-2 draw and then defeated New York City FC 1-0 in the Reds home on March 7. A few days after that, the season was suspended.
“It’s a little bit eerie,” said Bradley, of being at the training ground. “It’s a big facility and normally it’s full of life and energy. Right now, aside from the building manager, there’s literally two of us there. But it still means I’m able to get everything I need for my rehab.
“It will be 13 weeks (on Tuesday, since the surgery), and I’m making good progress. I’ve responded well every step along the way and we’re going to keep progressing (with) things so that whenever we return, whenever things get going again, I’m as far along as possible, if not ready to go.”
Shortly after it was announced in January that Bradley would undergo surgery, teammate Jozy Altidore ripped the club for handling Bradley’s injury “poorly”. Altidore felt there was something amiss that the decision for Bradley to undergo surgery came more than two months after the captain hurt the ankle during the MLS Cup final on Nov. 10.
“We have a long history together (and) Jozy’s comments that day I think came out of frustration for the fact that he was really excited for a big, important season to get going and he was very disappointed with the idea that I was going to have to miss out on the first part,” said Bradley, when asked for his thoughts on Altidore’s outburst. “I think he was trying to defend me in a strong way. I think that was the root of that.
“(But) for a zillion reasons, I have no real desire to go back and spend any time worrying about what went on,” Bradley added. “The old phrase — there’s no use crying over split milk — is how I feel. In the moment I gave my opinion and I had good, hard, honest, direct conversations with everybody inside the club, behind closed doors. Since then, we’ve all moved on. There are things bigger and more important (to worry about).”
Such as, keeping his family happy and safe in isolation at their home in Toronto, as well as making sure that his teammates are getting the support they need. Bradley praised the club for the “incredible job” it’s done supporting the players during the lock down – things like providing fitness equipment and emotional support and delivering two nutritious meals each day.
“I try every day to make sure that I’m reaching out, seeing how they’re doing — just engaging with guys (and) keeping the line open because in a moment like this when everybody is forced to be at home and away from each other, that part of social interaction and engagement is really important,” said Bradley. “Omar Gonzalez lives in the same neighbourhood as me and he and his wife and girls have walked by a few times, and he’ll shoot me a message and say, ‘Are you guys outside?’ And if we’re not, I’ll say ‘No, but we can be quickly.’ So we’ll pop downstairs and (go) just outside the front door. They’ll stand on the street and we’ll stand on our front porch area, the kids will be yelling and screaming and Omar and I will be shouting back and forth with each other and checking up on things. Nobody has lived through anything like this so it’s important to find any way you can help yourself and people close to you through it.”
Bradley, 32, said he has no insight of when MLS will allow full or partial training to begin, though he doesn’t expect games played in front of big crowds to happen anytime soon.
“I know that in Europe, some teams have started to move back into the small group training phase,” he said. “I certainly know it’s not going to be like flipping on a light switch and all of a sudden one day everybody’s back in the training facility and we’re playing games at a sold-out BMO. I think everything’s going to be phased back in very gradually.”