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Toronto FC to return Michael Bradley to midfield from temporary centre back role

October 02, 2018 - 1:26 PM

TORONTO - Michael Bradley will be back in his familiar defensive midfield role when Toronto FC hosts the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.

Injuries, particularly to veteran centre back Drew Moor, have prompted coach Greg Vanney to use Bradley in the backline at times this season.

For Vanney, it was a chance for Bradley to play Moor's role as defensive quarterback while making it more difficult for opposing players to stop him from making the first pass to set up attacks.

It was also a bid to stem the flow of goals. Toronto, which conceded just 37 goals during its 2017 championship season, has leaked 58 so far this season.

Injuries have limited defender Chris Mavinga to just nine regular-season games. But the Frenchman is back healthy and Vanney said he likes what he saw of Mavinga and Gregory van der Wiel at centre back.

"(Bradley) won't be in the back any more," Vanney said Tuesday. "We tried it during a period where there was some instability in the back and we were looking for some leadership and stability ... I knew I was going to do it (return him to the midfield). It was just a question of when."

Bradley did yeoman service in the back. But the skipper is not a defender, as witnessed in Toronto's 4-1 win over New England on Saturday. Bradley was slightly out of line on New England's goal, allowing the assistant referee to keep his flag down.

For some, what the team gained from having him at centre back it lost by not having him in the midfield.

Bradley, recalled to the U.S. national team for the first time since the failed World Cup qualifying campaign, did not speak to the media Tuesday.

Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who is able to play more forward when Bradley is in his normal midfield holding role, says he's just happy to see Bradley anywhere on the field.

"But I'm sure he will say so himself, he's more comfortable in this (midfield) position," said Osorio.

"It'll be nice to have him back there," he added.

Toronto (9-15-6) enters the weekend game with a sense of urgency. Seven points out of the playoffs with four games remaining, it needs to win out and get help from other fronts.

"We know the situation," Vanney said. "But I think deep down inside the guys feel like they can put some pressure on some of those other teams. And if they slip up, we'll be there to try and take the opportunity that might be presented."

The team also wants to end a difficult MLS season on a positive note.

"There's value in these games, no matter what. And I think everybody understands that," Vanney said. "Also whenever you have a year like this, honestly everybody will be a little uncomfortable in the off-season as to what direction this will go. So I think everyone wants to finish strong."

Once again, Toronto will dive into the CONCACAF Champions League early in 2019.

Vancouver (11-12-7) is also chasing the post-season. The Whitecaps are six points out of a playoff spot with four games remaining.

Moor remains questionable for the weekend game due to an ongoing calf issue

Vanney says the team is waiting to see how striker Jozy Altidore's ankle injury responds this week. He had to come off early the last two games because of it.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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