The Full 90

Sporting KC forward Teal Bunbury eager to return

Updated: 2013-06-10T23:24:44Z

By TOD PALMER

The Kansas City Star

More than nine months ago, Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury tore the ACL in his left knee.

Bunbury, 23, has been patient and tried to focus on working diligently through the rehab process, but now that the months until his return have dwindled to weeks and finally days, Bunbury is find it hard to keep the excitement bottled up.

“C’mon, yeah, it’s right around the corner, a week or two away,” Bunbury said. “It’s been nine months, so I’m definitely getting more anxious. It’s just excitement. I haven’t played a game in forever. Obviously, coming back to training is one thing and the game is the next thing. I’m really excited to be back and probably when I get on the field, I’ll be smiling the whole time.”

That time could come as soon as Wednesday when Sporting KC plays host to its USL Pro affiliate, Orlando City SC, during the fourth round of the 100th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Sporting Park.

“There’s a good chance he’ll suit up for this game Wednesday night,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “He won’t start.”

Still, Vermes didn’t rule out the possibility Bunbury could see a few minutes.

“It depends on how the game’s going,” Vermes said.

The club has targeted June 22 at FC Dallas as Bunbury’s return for a few months, now and Vermes put the kibosh on any suggestion Bunbury might be shipped to Orlando City SC to get his feet wet after Monday’s training session.

“The biggest part of his progress is making sure that medically he’s where he needs to be,” Vermes said. “Our guys have been with him since the beginning. To now hand him to someone else who doesn’t know what all the progress has been and what we’re looking for, just from that perspective alone, it would not be good.”

That doesn’t mean Vermes will rush Bunbury back into 90 minutes of action either — a circumstance Bunbury, who has 19 goals and six assists in 77 career appearances with Sporting KC, understands.

“I could never tell, ‘OK, I’m 20 minutes fit,’ but my fitness is getting better every single day,” Bunbury said. “I feel that I’ll be ready come June 22 — if it’s 20 minutes, if it’s a half, if it’s 90. I feel like I’m progressing well enough that within a couple weeks my fitness will be where it should be.”

Bunbury, who went to camp with the U.S. men’s national team in January 2012, continues to deal with some pain in the surgically repaired knee — including chondromalacia, an inflammation of the cartilage under the kneecap — but it’s something he’ll have to battle through.

“There’s still a little bit of pain, but it’s really going away and every day I feel it less and less,” Bunbury said. “Within a month, it will be completely gone hopefully.”

Besides, the last step in the healing process is for Bunbury to test the knee and learn to trust it will support him again.

“When you’re in that situation, coming back from injury like that, the biggest thing for you is you’ve got to get hit a few times and you’ve got to give a few hits,” Vermes said. “You’ve got to get over that mental aspect.”

All-Star Game ballot unveiled

Major League Soccer unveiled the ballot for the 2013 MLS All-Star Game, which will be played July 31 at Sporting Park against AS Roma.

Each of the league’s 19 clubs is allowed to have six players on the ballot.

Sporting KC’s six all-star game candidates are reigning MLS goalkeeper of the year Jimmy Nielsen, reigning MLS defender of the year Matt Besler, 2012 MLS MVP finalist Graham Zusi, Best XI an all-star defender Aurelien Collin as well as Designated Player Claudio Bieler and defensive midfielder Oriol Rosell.

Additional players will be eligible for all-star inclusion in later phases of the selection process.

Fan voting started Monday and continues through July 2 online at MLSSoccer.com and via text by messaging the player’s last name to 22442.

Voting on Twitter will take place June 20-21 and the 10 players who receive the most combined votes will be announced as the All-Star Fan XI, which will be revealed at halftime of Sporting KC’s match July 7 at the Chicago Fire live on ESPN.

The 11th player, a forward, will be determined by the AT&T MLS All-Star “In the Game” Challenge. The player with whom fans score the most goals in EA Sports FIFA Soccer 13 Ultimate Team from July 3-10 will round out the Fan XI.

Lopez remains with U-20s

Midfielder Mikey Lopez, who was Sporting KC’s first-round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft won’t be rejoining the club any time soon.

Lopez was one of 21 players coach Tab Ramos named to the U.S. under-20 men’s national team roster for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which begins June 21 in Turkey.

Lopez, 20, is one of five midfielders and nine MLS players on the roster. He has made 25 appearances with U.S. under-20 side.

The U.S. is in Group A with Spain (June 21), France (June 24) and Ghana (June 27). All three games in the group stage will be televised on the ESPN family of networks.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.

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