Editor's note: Because there are restraints on how much ink you can spill in the printed product, I couldn't pour all of my thoughts on the Teal Bunbury situation into one story. The first section is my take on Bunbury's chances to make the U.S. World Cup squad. Below that is a portion of my interview with him.
You can call it a decision. Some might call it a defection. The difference might just be a matter of geographical location. (And possibly a fair deal of principle.)
While many in the States are rejoicing the fact that several notable hyphenate players -- such as KC's Teal Bunbury, who is Canadian-American* -- there's great
*The other hyphenate-Americans who have recently played for the U.S. or who have recently declared for the U.S.: Jermaine Jones (German-American), Eric Lichaj (Polish-American), Mikkel Diskerud (Norwegian-American), Juan Agudelo (Colombian-American) and Gale Agbossoumonde (Togo-American).
Bunbury made it no secret that he wants to play in a World Cup and that this decision was made with his future in mind. The last time Canada qualified for the World Cup was 1986; the last time the U.S. qualified for the World Cup was a year ago.
It's like if someone told you had to get from Kansas City to Montreal, but you could only choose between a Honda Civic or a mountain bike as your means of transportation.
Bunbury opted for the car. Had he stuck with it through to the end, he might have made it to his destination on the bike, but there's a higher probability that he'll get to his destination faster using another means of transportation.
Now that the decision/defection is out of the way, let's deal with the big question: Does he have a chance of making the roster for the U.S. in 2014? While the U.S. talent pool might be deeper than Canada's, it's still a bit toward the shallow side. Might I take a second to remind everyone that this is a country that was so desperate for strikers that it took Robbie Findley to the 2010 World Cup. Robbie. Findley.
The pecking order for U.S. striker right now, as I see it: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey (though he's more suited as a midfielder), Edson Buddle, Herculez Gomez, Robbie Findley, Brian Ching*, Chris Wondolowski**, Connor Casey, Eddie Johnson and Charlie Davies (if healthy, he jumps up higher). Young upstarts like Bunbury, Justin Braun*** and Juan Agudelo are just behind this group.****
*Would've been in South Africa this summer if healthy.
**Would've been on this team, perhaps in place of Bunbury, if San Jose weren't in the MLS playoffs. He should probably be above Ching and Findley now too.
***I'm not sure why Braun wasn't invited to play in this game. I'd slate him above Bunbury and below Agudelo.
****This is a different conversation if the U.S. can convince hyphenated-American strikers Danny Mwanga and Steve Zakuani to choose the red, white and blue.
That's not exactly a murderers row. Buddle, Ching, Gomez and Casey most likely will be too old to factor into the 2014 World Cup team as first-team players. Findley and Johnson are all pace, no skill. Wondolowski had a great year and is in really good form, but there's a real question about whether he can sustain it. Davies is a gigantic question mark. Even the squad's best striker, Altidore, is fighting for scraps from a mid-table Spanish team.
Bunbury is, admittedly, still a raw package. He's got speed and strength, but his touch and nose for the goal are still developing. He improved both his off-the-ball movement and "post-up" skills as the season wore on, but they aren't quite world class yet.
He's got time and a now he's got a chance to make a pretty good first impression next Wednesday in South Africa.
In case you haven't had your fill of Bunbury news, here's a portion of my conversation with him on Thursday afternoon.
The Full 90:
How are you feeling today?
"I'm feeling great. I'm really honored and privileged to be given this opportunity as a young player. I'm going (to South Africa) to take full advantage of the situation. I'm really blessed right now. Hearing all the kinds words people have to say right now, it's very humbling."
The Full 90:
When did you find out you were getting the call-up?
"I was contacted about a week ago. ... I talked to Bob Bradley maybe a couple of months ago. He let me know that I was on his radar and he was watching my progress and really liked the way I was maturing. I tried not to pay too much attention to it because I was trying to focus on the Wizards and helping the team try and make the playoffs. ... When I got this call last week, I was ecstatic."
The Full 90:
How did you come about the decision to choose the United States over Canada?
"It was obviously a tough decision. My dad played for Canada (and was a) Hall of Famer there. After discussions with my family and my agent, it ultimately came down to my decision. ... Thinking about it, praying about it. I really felt that, even though I was born in Canada, I only lived there for a few years. I've grown up in the States (and lived here) longer than I lived in Canada. I feel more American than I do Canadian to be completely honest. That was my decision."
The Full 90:
Do you view this as a permanent decision?
"Permanent? Yes. I don't want to sit here and say if this happens or this happens... that's not the right way to look at it. I don't like to go into things halfway. This is a permanent decision."
The Full 90:
What sort of expectations do you have for this game and going forward with the U.S. national team?
"I'm looking to be part of any and every camp and any game that's possible with the full team. That's my mindset. ... I'm going to go to South Africa with the mindset that I gotta showcase my ability because I've been given a great opportunity. You know, I can't let it slide."
The Full 90:
Do you view this as a reward for a good rookie season?
"I feel like I had a good season, obviously not as good as it could've been. It's another opportunity along the way that I have to take advantage of. These type of opportunities don't come along every day."