Toronto FC held its first practice under new coach Bob Bradley on Wednesday, missing some players and with plenty of questions still to be answered at the California camp.
Just getting out of snowy Toronto on Tuesday was an achievement. The MLS team began work in more suitable conditions in Irvine where the 14-day forecast calls for daytime highs of 20 C.
“We walked out on the field today and you looked around and there was a real sense of energy and excitement,” said captain Michael Bradley, who is Bob's son.
Not everyone is in camp yet.
Bob Bradley offered little when asked about the status of designated players Jozy Altidore and Yeferson Soteldo, who are widely expected to be on their way out as the club makes room for new DP Lorenzo Insigne, who is expected to arrive in July after his Napoli contract runs out.
“I'm not going to get into any details with where we are with certain players,” said Bradley, who doubles as the team's sporting director. “Soteldo is with the Venezuelan national team right now.
“Like a lot of teams, as we start pre-season, for different reasons you don't start with everyone,” he added. “And then there's work that gets done and then over time a roster gets built and developed. And that can be anything from personal reasons to just discussions that are going on inside a club.
“For me right now, I'm excited that we've got a group of players (here). It's time to get going. And then I think you'll see, over the next weeks and maybe the next month or months, how some of these discussions end up and how we move forward.”
He confirmed that Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo, the team's other DP, is in camp.
Right now, the only constant is change as Bradley looks to rebuild a team that went 6-18-10 to finish 26th in the league while conceding a franchise-worst 66 goals.
TFC's transactions list on the official MLS website lists 14 players who have left and that doesn't cover all the moving pieces.
“Yes, we certainly have a lot of work to do,” said Bob Bradley. “I think throughout the last couple of months it's been clear that there's a lot of work that will go into building the roster over the next month or even months.”
Midfielder Mark Delgado is the latest veteran to leave.
He reunited with coach Greg Vanney at the Los Angeles Galaxy in exchange for US$400,000 in general allocation money, with another $100,000 possibly coming from certain performance metrics met.
The deal was confirmed by a source, not authorized to speak publicly because the deal had not yet been announced.
TFC did confirm that former Canadian international Paul Stalteri and Mike Sorber have joined Bradley's coaching staff.
Sorber, a former U.S. international who worked with Bradley with the U.S. national team and Los Angeles FC, will serve as assistant coach and technical director. Stalteri will be an assistant coach
Incumbent goalkeeper coach Jon Conway is back.
Stalteri is a Canada Soccer Hall of Famer who won 84 caps for Canada.
He played with Michael Bradley at Borussia Moenchengladbach during a stellar club career that also saw him spend time with Werder Bremen in Germany and Tottenham and Fulham in England.
Since retiring in 2013, Stalteri has served as a Canada Soccer youth coach and assistant coach with the senior national team.
He was most recently an assistant coach at York United FC of the Canadian Premier League.
“Paul is just a consummate professional - a really good guy, a family guy,” said Bob Bradley. “Great values. And a competitor.”
Bradley wasted little time putting his stamp on the squad, saying part of Monday was spent encouraging the defence to step up to pressure the opposition. He also talked of moving the ball quickly to trigger attacks and create chances.
“Already players will tell you, there was a lot of detail,” the coach said.
“I really believe that everything you do when you have the ball connects directly to what happens when you lose it,” he added. “And how you defend.”
Bradley held a video session Tuesday evening before the team took the field for its first practice.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2022