Teal Bunbury is with Sporting Kansas City in Carson, Calif., for Sunday's game against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center, but he’d rather be in Kansas City.
Bunbury missed Sporting KC’s first two home games to train and play with the U.S. under-23 men’s national team as it attempted to qualify for the 2012 Olympics this summer in London.
Unfortunately for Bunbury, that bid was cut short in shocking fashion as U.S. squad failed to make it out of pool play last week in Nashville, Tenn., losing to Canada and drawing with El Salvador to earn a premature exit from qualifying, which continued Saturday at Livestrong Sporting Park.
The silver lining for local soccer fans is that the result ensures Bunbury won’t miss nearly as much time with Sporting KC as he otherwise would have.
“From a selfish perspective, it’s a great thing,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “But if you would have asked me prior to if I would have hoped the team wouldn’t make the Olympics so we get Teal for the rest of the season, I would never have signed on for that. I really thought it would be great from an experience perspective for us to be represented there.”
Bunbury also had mixed emotions, but insisted that he already put the failed Olympic bid in the rearview mirror and is ready to move forward with his club.
“It’s bittersweet, because obviously I would have loved to have that opportunity, but now my concentration and my focus is on the Supporter’s Shield, winning MLS Cup and doing the things I know this club can do,” Bunbury said.
If anything, far from leaving the Canadian-born striker dismayed, Bunbury is using the debacle as motivation.
“It’s not going to help to sit and dwell on it,” he said. “That’s not going to make me a better player. It’s going to fuel the fire and make me more hungry and more determined to try to get better as a player. It’s not a good feeling, but I am excited to be with my club now. I’m eager to help and contribute. We’re off to a great start and hopefully I can help keep that going.”
Vermes wouldn’t say if Bunbury, who started the season opener at D.C. United, would slide back into the starting lineup right away, but Vermes indicated that he won’t hesitate to use the 22-year-old former first-round pick, who has 18 total goals in 60 appearances across all competitions since joining Sporting KC.
“Teal will get minutes,” Vermes said. “He’s ready to go and ready to play. He’s hungry and he’s right back in it. We missed him, so we need that. He’s a big part of our team and the way we play and what we want to do. You can see he wants to be here and he’s going to have a big impact.”
Bunbury’s straight-line speed could be an asset against Chivas USA, which lost 1-0 matches versus Houston and Vancouver at home to open the season but stunned Real Salt Lake 1-0 last Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“He has a directness that is extremely dangerous and puts other teams under pressure,” Vermes said. “Having that in our group is fantastic. On the ball he probably is the fastest guy or at least right there. It’s amazing how he can breakaway with the ball.”