Michael Bradley, right, followed up a strong showing against Mexico with his first goal for Toronto FC. (Rock Scuteri/AP)
Toronto FC may have been significantly short-handed against the 3-0-0 Columbus Crew, but as most U.S. fans have learned over the last few years, as long as Michael Bradley is patrolling the midfield, his team typically has a chance to succeed.
Despite four starters being out, Bradley helped lead Toronto FC to a win at first-place Columbus, following up his midweek Man of the Match performance against Mexico with his first Toronto FC goal, opening the scoring in TFC's 2-0 win Crew Stadium.
With starters Jermain Defoe, Jonathan Osorio, Steven Caldwell and Doneil Henry all unavailable either through injury or suspension, TFC took the first step toward claiming the 2014 Trillium Cup -- the trophy given to the winner of the annual Toronto-Columbus rivalry -- by bouncing back from its first defeat of the season. The Reds and Columbus are now tied atop the Eastern Conference through four games, though the Crew have a stronger goal differential.
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Bradley put Toronto up early, latching onto a ball from Mark Bloom deep in the right side of the Columbus box and firing home from an acute angle in the 11th minute.
Between Bradley's goal, Clint Dempsey's hat trick and Maurice Edu's goal for Philadelphia against Chicago, Saturday proved to be a prolific day for U.S. national team players who took part in Wednesday's 2-2 draw with El Tri.
Watch Bradley's first MLS goal since his return to the league below: