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It's father against son as Los Angeles FC visits Toronto FC in Bradley Bowl

Los Angeles FC knows that to apply the brakes to Toronto FC, you've got to disrupt Michael Bradley. And no one knows the TFC midfield general better than Bob Bradley, his father and LAFC coach.

Los Angeles FC knows that to apply the brakes to Toronto FC, you've got to disrupt Michael Bradley.

And no one knows the TFC midfield general better than Bob Bradley, his father and LAFC coach.

"I've watched every Toronto game since Michael's been there. I watched ever Roma game when he was at Roma. (Every game at) Chievo," Bob Bradley told reporters in Los Angeles on Wednesday. "It's part of the deal. I've enjoyed that part, seeing him grow as a player."

But Bob will be looking to make life difficult for the TFC captain when LAFC visits Toronto for the first MLS regular-season meeting between the two.

Asked what he will see when he looks out at Michael in Toronto colours on Saturday at BMO Field, Bob replied: "I see a real good player, absolutely."

Bob has coached Michael with the now-defunct MetroStars, who selected him 36th overall in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft, and the U.S. national team. While LAFC and Toronto met during the 2018 pre-season, Saturday's encounter marks the first competitive game that Bob has coached against his son. 

"As we prepare to play against Toronto, like we would against any other team, you try to understand what the team's all about," said Bob. "A lot of what happens in Toronto begins with his ability to navigate his team, give his team rhythm, control the game. So we probably have to try and make it hard for him."

Asked which Bradley was more competitive, a smiling Bob replied: "Probably equal."

"And now his son (Luca) is right up there with both of us."

Bob's wife is flying in early to visit her son and grandkids. While his team is set to return early Sunday, Bob plans to take a flight home later in the day with his wife.

"Sunday morning, win lose draw, I'll have a chance to see Michael, Amanda and the kids," said Bob. "The way our family works, that'll always be special. That will mean playing a little bit of football in the backyard with Luca."

The 31-year-old Michael also knows his father. Bob, 60, acknowledged that his son hung around all his coaching gigs growing up.

"We've shared the game in ways that have been special. Now I see him doing the same with Luca. For me, that's awesome. And then there'll be a whistle and 90 minutes and he'll fight like hell to try to help his team and now worry what anyone says. And we'll do our best around here to have our team ready to go. And then when the game's over, we'll continue."

Bob says he and Michael talk about soccer every day, but have not talked about Saturday's game.

"Look I'm proud of him. He's grown in a lot of ways. When you have a son, you try to teach your son what it's like to be a man. When you see him as a father, husband, brother, you see the way he handles himself, you see the strength that he has even in tough moments, what he's all about. Listen, I'm dead proud of that."

Expansion LAFC, third in the Western Conference at 12-7-7 prior to Wednesday's schedule of games, has been one of this season's success stories in Major League Soccer.

Defending champion Toronto, which stands ninth in the East with a 7-13-6 mark after Wednesday's 2-0 loss in Portland, has been one of the disappointments.

But the LAFC coach was charitable in his assessment of TFC's up-and-down season. 

"Whenever you a have a season and you win everything and then you have a fast turnaround, the next season's going to represent all new challenges," he said, citing Toronto's lengthy injury list coming out of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Adding to the family affair Saturday is the fact that Jeff Bradley, Bob's brother and Michael's uncle, is Toronto's director of communications.

Football runs in the Bradley family. Ryan, Bob's daughter and Michael's sister, is married to former Seattle Sounder Andy Rose, an Australian who currently plays for Motherwell in Scotland.


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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press