Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury returned to action Wednesday for the first time since suffering a torn ACL in his left knee last Aug. 26. He entered for forward Jacob Peterson during the 76th minute.
“It’s nice to be out there, but to be honest right now I’m pretty bummed out,” Bunbury said after Sporting KC was eliminated from the 100th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 1-0 loss against its USL Pro affiliate, Orlando City SC.
Returning to a competitive match, even for a brief time and not against an MLS side, clears a significant mental hurdle for Bunbury.
“In training is one thing, and I’ve been getting into tackles and being able to cut and stuff, but the guys know me and know I’m coming back from an injury,” Bunbury said. “They aren’t going to come in too crazy, but getting 15 minutes in a competitive match definitely helps me mentally.”
• Sporting KC defender Kevin Ellis, the second Homegrown Player in club history, made his competitive debut with Sporting KC. He started at right back with Chance Myers nursing a groin strain and Mechack Jerome off playing with the Haiti men’s national team.
“He played very well throughout the whole entire game, I thought,” Vermes said. “I’m proud of him and I’m happy for him, because I know he’s worked very hard and he’s been in consistent form for probably three months now. I thought he did very well with his opportunity.”
Ellis was disappointed Sporting KC took the loss, but recognized the importance of the moment for his career.
“More important, we would have liked to get the win as a team, but I’m very appreciative for the opportunity to play in a game like tonight,” Ellis said. “ I’ve waited a long time to get prepared, (so) it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders a little bit. I felt a lot of pressure to step up and play finally, so from that aspect I reached one of the first of many goals I have for my career.”
• Forward Dom Dwyer, who was Sporting KC’s first-round pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, wasn’t allowed to play Wednesday, a decision that undoubtedly had something to do with the superb form he’s displayed this season.
Dwyer broke the USL Pro single-season scoring record with 15 goals in 13 games this season and still has 13 more games to extend that mark. He also scored nine preseason goals and has added three in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play.
“The record means a lot,” Dwyer said. “It’s always nice to get some recognition. Obviously, the team’s doing really well. We’re top of the league and still in the (Open) Cup, so we’re very pleased with how it’s going so far. We just need to keep plugging away.”
He wasn’t thrilled initially when Sporting KC opted to send him out on loan as part of an affiliate agreement the club signed with Orlando City in January, but his attitude to the assignment quickly changed.
“It’s turned out that it’s absolutely for the best and I’m loving every minute of it,” Dwyer said. “I’m playing regular football. It’s been very important for me and helped me a lot as a player. It’s given me a chance to show myself after not getting many opportunities to play last year. I’ve gotten back into the swing of things and I really feel confident in myself as a goal scorer, which is what I believe I do best.”