More than four years into his professional soccer career, former Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury has added a new role to his line of work in New England. He’s moonlighting as a coach.
The new gig is likely to last one only week.
New England will play host to Sporting Kansas City at 6:30 p.m. Saturday — a meeting of Bunbury’s new team against his old one. And that’s turned the former Sporting KC striker into more of a coach than he ever planned to be.
“It’s been different this week because the guys keep asking for anything I might know about (Sporting KC),” Bunbury said in a phone interview Friday. “They know the style I like to play, and I know the style they like to play. I know what kind of philosophies they have. I can look out for certain things they like to do.”
The familiarity is to be expected. Bunbury spent the first four years of his career with Sporting KC, the first two showing significant signs of promise before the final two were marred by a gruesome ACL injury.
When he returned from that injury last June, Bunbury had lost his starting spot and was never able to regain it. Instead, Sporting KC transitioned toward designated player Claudio Bieler and Dom Dwyer during its MLS Cup championship run.
That made Bunbury expendable in the offseason, and Sporting KC consequently shipped him to the Revolution in exchange for a 2015 first-round draft pick and allocation money.
“I know he wanted to play on a regular basis. That wasn’t going to be here all the time,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “He’s been a good guy for this club in the past. He’s getting that opportunity now.”
Bunbury said he requested the trade.
“I was really happy with it,” he said. “I had a good conversation at the end of last year with Peter about wanting an opportunity to play more. We both figured out it wasn’t going to be the right place for me. There was never any ill-will. I couldn’t be happier. I’m really liking it here.”
Bunbury says he feels completely healthy this season — and he’s played the full 90 minutes in all seven matches — but he’s still searching for his first goal in his new home. Notching the first tally against his former club would supply an added bonus.
“I’m really excited to play against them,” Bunbury said. “I honestly haven’t thought of it too much, though. It will be nice to see old teammates and good friends, but when I step on the field, I’ll be ready to go.”
New England, 2-3-2, could use the spark. The Revolution have scored only five goals this season, the fewest total in the Eastern Conference.
“I feel like the transition has been pretty seamless. We play the same formation here. The same type of philosophies that Peter had, we have here as well, so the transition has been pretty easy,” Bunbury said.
“But I haven’t scored yet this season, so I’m just ready to score.”Sporting Kansas City at New England
6:30 p.m. Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
KMCI (Ch. 38); WHB (810 AM)
•ABOUT SPORTING KC (3-1-2):
After losing its season opener in Seattle, Sporting KC is unbeaten in six straight matches. Defender Aurelien Collin is likely to be available after leaving Saturday’s 4-0 victory against Montreal with a slight hamstring strain. Midfielder Paulo Nagamura is listed as questionable with a left quad strain.
•ABOUT NEW ENGLAND (2-3-2):
The Revolution has scored only five times in seven matches, the fewest output in the Eastern Conference. Defender Jose Goncalves will miss Saturday’s match with a right quad strain.
The two teams are set to meet for the first time since Sporting KC came from behind to win the Eastern Conference semifinal series last season.
•PREDICTION: Sporting KC 1, New England 1