“It’s going to come back around, and when it does you have to be ready.”

TFC’s Alex Bono joins Footy Talks Live.

He’s without doubt one of the top ten goalkeepers in the league, but it’s been a challenging 12 months for TFC’s Alex Bono, after losing his regular starting position between the posts.

In yesterday’s Footy Talks Live the crew spoke with Bono about the staying motivated from the sidelines and how it felt to finally get back out on the field in the MLS Is Back Tournament in Orlando:

‘Yeah It was huge. I felt really comfortable honestly. I thought that I’d been training well leading up and I was excited to get back in the action.  It’s been a while since I’ve been fortunate enough to get a game so I was grateful that Greg decided to put me in for that one. It felt good – we defended really well from start to finish, especially in that 9am heat. But at the end of the day we came out with a point and we ended up winning the group, so I was proud of the guys and it felt really comfortable – really good to be back out there.’

With over a year since his last competitive outing, KJ quizzed Bono on the mental preparation required for the game, and how the keeper remains sharp and competitive over the long months without first team football:

‘We do alot of 11 v 11 and full field training, so I try to take those experiences and treat them like real games. If you do that it gives you a really good opportunity to block out the atmosphere, block out the pressures of it, of it being on television, that sort of thing. And it just sort of feels normal – feels like you’re in a training session. It feels like something you’ve done a million times, and every week, even if it’s not on the weekend. So I go into those training sessions and treat them like game situations, just so when they come up and I am fortunate enough to be on the field, it feels pretty normal.’

‘For me I wanted to focus on going out there and doing my job, doing what I’m supposed to do to help the team. I know that I’m capable of being between the pipes every single game and that’s my mentality. So for me just to go out there and play my game, do the things that I’m comfortable doing – don’t try and play outside myself. We have a great team and in no way do I have to do anything outside of what my job is, and what my strengths are, so I just went out there and tried to play my game. Try to have fun out there. At the end of the day it is a game and it’s the game we love, it’s the game we live. And for me to go out there and enjoy it as much as I can and take these moments and really enjoy them and put a smile on my face – I came out for warm ups and before I started warming up I looked over at John, John looked over at me, it felt normal and I just smiled and started jogging and said ‘ok here we go – it’s time.’

The 0-0 draw with New England Revolution was short on action for long spells. But in the challenging conditions of extreme heat and little or no fans, Bono was still called upon to make an important save late in the game:  

‘Yeah that’s the life of a goalkeeper right? You can spend 89 minutes doing basically nothing and you have to pull off something in the 90th minute to help your team out and help secure points. So for me yeah I try to stay engaged through communication. Try and make sure I’m always talking with the guys and even in a normal game situation with fans, even if they can’t hear me, just for me to know that I’m talking and staying engaged and focused on what’s going on in the match. It really helps you out when it comes down to these moments when you’re called on late in the game when you’ve been more or less pretty quiet the entire way through.’ 

Although not a regular starter for TFC, Bono is known to be a leader in the dressing room and influential figure amongst his teammates. KJ asked the keeper about the challenge of losing his place, and how professional athletes cope with the constant competition for places in the starting 11:

‘It’s never difficult when you’re at the top and you feel like you’re the guy, and then all of a sudden you kind of get knocked down a couple of pegs. For some people it can be detrimental and for some people it can be a real strengthening moment – a moment where you have to look inside yourself and dig deep and say “ok listen, these are the ebbs and flows of a career, of a season, of a game” […] It’s about how you react to it for me and obviously it’s something that you hope you never have to face but when you do it’s about how you react.’ 

‘So for me just coming in everyday, trying to put a smile on my face, trying to go out on the training field and get better, and try and improve so that when I do get another opportunity I’m best prepared to do that job. It’s never easy, but at the end of the day this is the game, this is the nature of the beast, and if you can take that and not take it too personally, and say listen, it’s going to come back around, and when it does you have to be ready to take the bull by the horns and make it your own. And if you’re not, you can start to unravel pretty quickly in this business.

Edwin Tubb