Bob Bradley has coached more than 400 professional soccer games and his son Michael has played in even more. Yet in all that time they’ve never played against each other in a competitive game.
That will end Saturday in Toronto when the Los Angeles Football Club, coached by Bob, faces Toronto FC, captained by his son. And neither intends to make things easy for the other.
“We prepare to play against Toronto like we would against any other team,” Bob Bradley said. “A lot of what happens in Toronto begins with [Michael’s] ability to navigate his team, give his team rhythm, control the game. So you probably have to make it hard for him.”
Whatever happens on the field will stay there, though. Because rather than returning on the LAFC team flight Sunday morning, Bob Bradley plans to spend much of the off day in Canada with his son and grandchildren, Luca and Quinn.
“Win, loss or draw I’ll have a chance to see Michael and the kids,” he said. “The way our family works, that will always be special. The love of the game and the things that we’ve shared, no one can take that away from us.”
Michael Bradley grew up with soccer, tagging along with his father to training sessions with D.C. United and the Chicago Fire before playing under him with the MetroStars and the U.S. national team. Both men then toured the world with the elder Bradley coaching in Egypt, Norway, France and England and his son playing in the Netherlands, Germany, England and Italy.
But the two spoke frequently and the conversations almost always centered on soccer.
“The way that we’re able to enjoy the game with each other, that part’s special,” said Michael, 31, who returned to MLS in 2014, four years ahead of his father. “We’ve been lucky to be able to share some incredible experiences together.”
Both men also share extremely competitive natures, which could make the 90 minutes they oppose one another Saturday difficult ones.
Toronto (7-13-6), the defending MLS champion, has struggled this season and with one win in its last five tries desperately needs a victory to keep its fading playoff hopes alive.
LAFC (12-7-7), bidding to become the fourth expansion team to reach the postseason, could take over the Western Conference lead with a win. But the team, unbeaten in its last three matches, will be playing for the first time since captain and center back Laurent Ciman left for French team Dijon on a transfer.
“We’ve shared the game in ways that have been special,” Bob, 60, said of his son. “There will be a whistle and 90 minutes and he’ll fight like hell to try to help his team. And when the game’s over, we’ll continue.
"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. I'm proud of that."
Neither man expects that to change no matter what happens on the field.