Mark Bloom is a product of Atlanta soccer and his journey to Toronto FC and Major League Soccer has been a long road. The 28-year-old outside back has established himself in the league after an initial loan from the Atlanta Silverbacks in 2013 led to a permanent transfer the following year. He signed a multi-year deal with the club prior to the 2015 season.
A quadriceps tear caused Bloom to miss the 2015 season and he has only recently started to get back to full fitness and form. Since the beginning of July, Bloom has been back in the mix in Toronto receiving regular playing time.
The product of the Cherokee Impact youth club and Berry College has had another big change to his life in recent months, his wife gave birth to their second baby girl.
Bloom was gracious enough to sit down for a chat with Dirty South Soccer. Here’s what he had to say:
Jon: You getting any sleep these days?
Mark: Yeah, actually, I am… My wife has been great! She takes care of the newborn at night and I take care of the 2-year old at night. So, my sleep kind of depends on the 2-year-old, which is kind of off and on- pretty sporadic, but it just comes down to hour managing. If I can’t sleep at night, I’ll try to get a nap in during the day. So I try to get any sleep in where I can…
J: What advice are you giving and what advice are you getting from the guys on the squad about fatherhood…?
M: Getting? Not much… just get as much sleep as you can… ‘Don’t get enough sleep? Get a nap!’ you know? Giving? Same sort of thing… same sort of advice…
J: Let’s talk about the team a little bit… from the beginning of the year, it was one of the more odd situations up there with BMO Field being renovated and having to start your season on the road. What was that part of the season like and what’s it finally like to be playing in a finished stadium?
M: Yeah, it’s definitely a unique situation where you’re trying to figure out your identity and you’re on the road for 7 or 8 games straight. You never have a chance to set a ledger. You’re traveling a lot so your training time gets cut down. Obviously, to set your identity you need to play at home. So, that being said it makes all those minor details a little harder to polish out from the very beginning of the season.
But we did very well. We accomplished what we had to accomplish to set ourselves up really well for the rest of the year with a good start. Now, we have an ending with more home games than away games which is a huge advantage, because now, the games are really important.
J: Considering you look at the top of the standings with the three of you right now in the East (Red Bulls, Toronto, and NYCFC), what do you see right now with this finish?
M: Honestly, I think it’s all in our hands. I think our schedule is very favorable to us. I think New York and New York have a tough schedule, harder than ours. I think if we get the points when we’re at home and maybe can draw away then I think we set ourselves up for the East and maybe even the Supporters’ Shield.
J: What’s your first Atlanta soccer memory? A lot of folks might have it as a game watching the Ruckus, or the Silverbacks, or maybe even something you saw on television? What was it for you?
M: I played for a few coaches that played for the Ruckus actually. So I knew of them. But my first experience is definitely the Silverbacks. I would go to those games with my dad and my brother and I just thought it was awesome that there was professional soccer in town. I didn’t really know too much about it at the time, but I thought it was cool to experience a high level and a higher level of professional soccer in Atlanta.
Then, to see it grow and to see what it is now is pretty cool.
J: For those that don’t know your story, what gravitated you to play the story in the first place?
M: It’s interesting. My dad was always into sports and he played baseball and soccer in college. So, when we moved to Atlanta, he became a teacher and then a baseball coach. The school needed a coach for the soccer team and he said that he would do it. So, he became the soccer coach. And my brother and I were at an age where we were choosing between soccer and baseball. We always looked up to my dad and the guys that he coached with since we were around them all the time. We thought that they were some of the greatest players that we had ever seen, so I think that’s what really had me choose soccer over baseball.
J: When you look at Atlanta as a soccer community, what do you think about its growth over time?
M: Yeah! I remember going to the Silverbacks games and I remember there was always a decent atmosphere. But then playing in Atlanta, I remember we had a great atmosphere and a great crowd for an NASL team and then an announcement for an MLS team. To see all the season tickets that have been sold and see that kind of support, I have always known that soccer was kind of big in Atlanta, but I questioned if they could support a professional team. But, obviously, everyone is really excited about what’s going on- including myself.
J: Now, the fun part… it’s the “King for a Day” question: How would you make sure that Atlanta keeps and maintains its growth curve as a soccer community?
M: I think it starts with the Academy there. I think that’s going to be the new standard for soccer in Atlanta. If you start there and get that right, and develop a system as to how you want to develop young players, it’s going to spread around to the clubs. There are some great clubs around Atlanta, so they’ll do the same thing.
Then, what’s down the road is really important. Having a good MLS team that the fans can get around is really important as well. Young kids can look up to the team and have something to play for when they do get older. I think that’s the most important thing- kids growing up having a connection and seeing themselves growing up and playing for the local team. I think that kind of drives them a little bit.
J: Last question, back to Toronto. To get to where you want to go as a side this season, what do you think you have to do between now and the end of the season?
M: Honestly, I just think we have to stay the course. I think we’re playing very well. We’ve clinched a playoff spot. But we can’t let the mindset of ‘We’ve already made it. I think I need a break.’ We can’t let that happen. We have to really step on the gas. I think it’s really important that we go into the playoffs with the same kind of momentum that we end the season with. I think it’s really important to keep doing what we’re doing. Because I think if we play the game that we’ve been playing no one can beat us, especially in a home and away series.
I think if we stay focused and if we can score the first goal, we’ve shown that we’re hard to beat. I think that’s important and that we stay solid in the back and keep doing what we’re doing around the field, then we’re going to score. If we keep doing that, then I think we’ll be fine.
(ed. note- We’d like to thank Mark for joining us right off the practice field to catch up and to Toronto FC’s Anthony Cozzetto in Media Relations for letting us use his cell phone for the conversation)