Bloom earns praise, respect from TFC coach

Mark Bloom, left, in action for Toronto FC. (Chris Young/CP)

The one thing that immediately strikes you the most about Mark Bloom is his affable demeanor.

The Toronto FC right fullback is a friendly, down to earth person who doesn’t put on airs. He’s the kind of guy you’d want to sit with on an outdoor patio on a hot summer day while drinking beers, or set your single sister up with and not have to worry about him trying something.

There always seems to be a smile etched on the face of the handsome, clean cut Bloom who is, to quote coach Ryan Nelsen, “a really good bloke.”

“I wish I had 20 more like him. He’s the kind of guy you’d wish your son would turn out to be like,” Nelsen quipped.

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Bloom is also the kind of right fullback that most MLS coaches would want: Young, energetic, fast, possessing good attacking instincts, and able to pick out a teammate in the final third with an accurate pass.

“He’s been one of our most consistent players (this season),” Nelsen said.

It’s been a remarkable nine months for Bloom in Toronto. When he was signed on loan last summer from the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL, it was to put pressure on then starting right fullback Richard Eckersley. Bloom, a 26-year-old native of Georgia, made the position his own and started the final six games of the schedule. TFC was so impressed with how well Bloom played that they exercised its loan option and inked him to a permanent deal.

He’s picked up in 2014 where he left off last season, starting in each of the Reds’ first five games of the campaign and winning plaudits for his consistent play. His best outing came in a 2-0 road win over Columbus when he not only helped a makeshift back line keep a clean sheet but he also set up Michael Bradley’s winning goal with a perfectly weighted pass inside the box for the streaking midfielder. He was also named to the MLS team of week this past Monday.

But even though this former lower-league journeyman has enjoyed a stunning rise (by MLS standards), he’s not letting success go to his head and he remains incredibly humble.

“I have to go into it every single day with the same mindset when I first got here—to make the most of it, and enjoy my opportunity because you never know when it’s going to end,” Bloom told Sportsnet.

The transition he’s made from the second-tier NASL to MLS has been impressive. Bloom has proven to be a quick study while dealing with a steep learning curve in the top-flight MLS.

“When you get here there are slight differences—everything’s a little bit quicker, a little bit faster. You have to think faster on your feet,” Bloom offered.

Not everyone can make the transition, though. Malta international Etienne Barbara won the NASL’s MVP award and was the league top scorer in 2011 with the Carolina RailHawks. He made the jump to MLS in 2012 with Vancouver but he never caught on with the Whitecaps due to a series of injuries and he was released by the club at the end of the season. Barbara is back in the NASL with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Bloom insists there is plenty of MLS-calibre talent in the NASL.

“I’m hoping to be a testament to the quality that is in that league. I know there are a lot of young guys who play in the NASL who have the quality to come up, so hopefully MLS teams will start looking there and start treating it as a farm system,” Bloom said.

Nelsen agrees: “We have to do better at scouting (the NASL). We got Bloom from there, which has been such a positive. Mark has been so good—this season he’s just got better and better.”

Influential father

Baseball’s loss turned out to be soccer’s gain. Bloom played both sports while growing up in Georgia—his dad played both in college, too—but he decided to try soccer fulltime when he turned 10.

“I fell in love with soccer. Baseball to me was boring—a lot of standing around. You got to move around in soccer so I really took to it,” Bloom said.

Bloom counts his father as his biggest influence on his soccer career.

“After school he would pick my brother and I up and take us to the high school he coached at. We’d be on the sidelines watching those guys and dreaming about getting our shot because we thought high school soccer was the biggest stage at that point,” Bloom recalled.

And it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that he considers another rampaging right fullback as his favourite player.

“I’ve always admired Maicon. The way he gets forward—when you watch him play, you don’t think he’s a right back. He just sticks in your mind because he’s always getting forward and joining the attack. … I like to take him as an example for how I like to play,” Bloom said.

Professionally, things are going well for Bloom. His family life is going swimmingly, too. His wife, a nurse currently stationed at a Florida navy base, is five months pregnant with the couple’s first child.

Bloom’s wife will meet up with him this weekend in Texas, where TFC plays FC Dallas on Saturday, before the couple flies to Florida to get an ultrasound where they will find out the sex of their child.

A long-distance relationship is rarely easy, but Bloom and his wife make it work as best they can.

“We do a lot of FaceTime, a lot of calls, a lot of texts. We try to share our lives as best we can. It can get tough with our busy schedules. But we make the most of it. A lot of the credit for my success goes to her. She could easily complain but she’s been so incredible,” Bloom said.

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