Sports

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley quietly compiling spectacular MLS season

San Jose Earthquakes' Jackson Yueill, left, vies for possession with Toronto FC's Michael Bradley during first half MLS soccer action in Toronto on September 9, 2017. Other may get the headlines but Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley is quietly compiling a spectacular MLS season. Bradley leads the league in ball recoveries (259) this season as well as passes per game (76.8). His pass completion rate of 88.2 per cent is also tops in MLS. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jon Blacker

San Jose Earthquakes' Jackson Yueill, left, vies for possession with Toronto FC's Michael Bradley during first half MLS soccer action in Toronto on September 9, 2017. Other may get the headlines but Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley is quietly compiling a spectacular MLS season. Bradley leads the league in ball recoveries (259) this season as well as passes per game (76.8). His pass completion rate of 88.2 per cent is also tops in MLS. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jon Blacker

Others may get the headlines but Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley is quietly compiling a spectacular MLS season.

Bradley leads the league in ball recoveries (259) this season as well as passes per game (76.8). His pass completion rate of 88.2 per cent is also tops in MLS among players who average 70 or more passes a game.

Many of Toronto's 59 goals this season started with Bradley winning the ball back and then sending it forward. He has also prevented more than a few in the Toronto end.

And the 30-year-old U.S. international captain just keeps rolling. While missing four TFC outings due to international duties, Bradley has played every minute of the 24 regular-season games he has appeared in this season.

Perhaps more remarkably, in his last 35 competitive matches for club and country, Bradley has been on the losing side just three times (22-3-10). He has played 90 minutes in each of those 35 games.

Bradley points to taking care of his body, from diet to sleep. And while acknowledging some injuries are unavoidable, he has dodged the bullet recently.

"The basis for it all is how much I love to play," he said. "I love to train, I love to compete. At a certain point in a long season, there's certain guys who mentally or physically can get worn out. I'm lucky in that regard ... that's not me."

Bradley looks to help league-leading Toronto (17-3-8) take another step towards the Supporters Shield on Saturday night when the team visits the Los Angeles Galaxy (7-14-6).

Toronto will be without star strikers Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, spared the long trip to heal up from some minor injuries at home.

A win and Toronto can match its club-record six-game win streak set earlier this season (April 21-May 13). TFC has scored three or more goals in each of the games on the current run.

Toronto is also undefeated in its last five away matches (3-0-2), the second-longest road undefeated streak in club history (the record is eight games, Aug. 14, 2016-March 18, 2017).

But Toronto has not scored in its last 184 minutes at StubHub Center where the Galaxy are 5-2-1 against TFC (including 2014 and 2015 shutouts). L.A. is undefeated in the last six home meetings of the series (4-0-2).

While the Galaxy have struggled this season, Bradley says StubHub Center is always a special place to visit.

"It doesn't matter the season they've had, the form they're in, you play the Galaxy in L.A. and it's a big game," said Bradley. "So we're excited for it, very excited."

Toronto won the only meeting between the two last season, a 1-0 victory June 18 at BMO Field. That win snapped a 10-game Galaxy undefeated streak against Toronto, dating back to May 31, 2008.

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By The Numbers:

Toronto FC continues to challenge the numbers this season.

In securing a playoff berth with last weekend's 4-0 home win over the San Jose Earthquakes, Toronto joined a list of five other clubs to clinch with six weeks left in the season (D.C. United, 2006; L.A. Galaxy, 2011; San Jose, 2012; Seattle, 2014; and FC Dallas, 2016).

Of note, only the 2011 Galaxy went on to win the MLS Cup.

Toronto, which has scored 17 goals in its last five league games, goes into the weekend with a goal differential of plus-33 (59 goals for, 26 goals against).

The only team to have a higher goal differential (41) over a full season is the 1998 Galaxy.

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