MLS- Sporting Kansas City

Confident Bunbury striking at right time


Photo by Bill Barrett/ISIphotos.com


Teal Bunbury doesn't accept success as a given, even if things are set up quite nicely for him on a couple of levels.

Bunbury, who scored both goals in Sporting Kansas City's 2-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals, has the scales tilted heavily in his favor heading into Wednesday night's second leg match at Livestrong Sporting Park (Wed., 8 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel).

The defending-champion Rapids are completely depleted in the back. With Drew Moor and Kosuke Kimura out injured and Tyrone Marshall suspended, Colorado is left with few options in defense. Rookie fullback Eddie Ababio and seldomly used Scott Palguta and Danny Earls join Marvell Wynne and Miguel Comminges as selection options for coach Gary Smith and give Sporting KC's attacking corps a decisive advantage. Bunbury's having none of that, though.

"I try to prepare myself the same way no matter who I'm going up against," Bunbury said. "Colorado has a good squad. The guys they bring in, they're going to perform and they know that it's a big game. Regardless of who's really playing, I do the things that I try and control, and that's working hard and playing for my teammates."

Bunbury is looking to cap his 2011 in the same manner which it began. A call-up to Bob Bradley's January camp culminated with his first international goal in a friendly against Chile. 

He rode that momentum to a fast start in MLS play, which included a three-goal outburst in his first three games that was punctuated by a two-goal outing against the Vancouver Whitecaps in his native Canada. 

An extended dry spell followed, though, coupled with the emergence of Sporting Kansas City rookie forward C.J. Sapong that created a traffic jam atop the formation with Kei Kamara and Omar Bravo performing as well. Bunbury found himself deprived of the lion's share of minutes and went 15 games without scoring before tallying six times over the final 12 games of the season to get his mojo back. 

"There was a time I wasn't getting playing time, I wasn't scoring goals and things weren't going my way," Bunbury said. "I stayed true to to it. … I've been able to just progress. Now that I feel like we're playing well as a team, it showcases that we have talented guys and it all works out.

"Confidence is a huge thing in this sport and in any sport. Once I got that confidence back it was just easier for me to believe in myself no matter what happens." 

His confidence showed against Colorado, first on his classy, bending finish around Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens, and then again from the penalty spot, where he doubled Sporting KC's advantage on the road with a crucial conversion.

Denying Bunbury and the rest of SKC's forward stable is crucial for Colorado, whose title defense rests in the balance. 

"We need to get that one goal before they get their third," Pickens said. "My main thing is just getting that first goal, and once we do, it's game on. We don't have anything to lose right now. We're going to go out there with no pressure on us."

Perhaps that's why Bunbury is preaching that the hosts maintain their attacking style instead of opting for a defense-first mentality while nursing the aggregate lead.

"We have all the respect in the world for Colorado because they're the defending champs," Bunbury said. "We can't be complacent. We have to be ready to play.

"We're definitely going to stay with the same mindset. That's the biggest thing that some teams might do that's not the smartest decision. You can't change the way you play. We might be a little more patient and safe, but we're going to go at Colorado." 

With a growing level of confidence, killer instinct and a recent run of good form, the prospects for the 21-year-old Bunbury are bright in both MLS and on the international level. A recent call-up by Jurgen Klinsmann for the U.S. national team's last set of friendlies reaffirmed his place on the radar for the present and future.

In addition to that, the recent hire of Bunbury's college coach, Akron's Caleb Porter, as the U.S. Under-23 coach bodes well for his chances of making the Olympic team. Although it's not as if his prospective presence on the team will come down to his connection to the coaching staff, it certainly can't hurt.

"I felt like (Porter) deserved it. It's a great opportunity for him," Bunbury said. "It's not that I have a cemented spot. I have to go out there and prove my worth that I want to be on that team and play for my country in the Olympics. I have to keep playing well and getting opportunities."

  • jim b

    The guy has all the physical tools he’s big, fast and strong (ask Moor), and hopefully he’s not the next Eddie Johnson. His mindset was suspect for most of the year, but now he seems centered and humble. We (SKC fans and USMNT fans) can only hope he continues to progress.


  • Dimidri

    What’s the local sports media’s relationship with SKC? It seems like one of the big appeals of MLS teams in markets that aren’t already oversaturated is that it allows them to take a prominent role in the local sports community. I didn’t really realize this, but it seems like SKC and their local ESPN affiliate have a great relationship, their big show, the Bill and Spence Show is going up to Seattle for the game, interviews players all the time, etc.


  • Adam

    You would think that would help Columbus, but it doesn’t. If you listen to sports radio in Columbus you wouldn’t even know the Crew exist.


  • Adam

    I think the bigger issue is that no one really cares about any sport outside of Ohio State football/basketball.


  • T

    Yeah, but outside of College sports and the now sub-standard Cavaliers, how can they ignore a fellow sports team in the state , which is pretty decent, except for this year….. :/


  • KC fan

    It’s not as good as you would think, with the Chiefs, Royals, and Big 12 sports getting most of the attention, but local TV media is coming around. The KC Star finally got up to par with The Full 90 blog, but the print version is still a bit behind. The city is coming around though….the stadium and the playoff run have people talking.


  • josh w.

    I have to say that I agree with your assessment. People keep projecting Bunbury as a slow hold up forward who poaches, but I tend to shy away from this classification. He gets overlooked for his speed when compared to Davies and Agudelo. Maybe he’s not a track star, but he has great speed and athleticism. he’s got great touch as well.

    I don’t see him settling as a target poacher as many project him to be (*cough Ives *cough)


  • abc

    “the recent hire of Bunbury’s college coach, Akron’s Caleb Porter, as the U.S. Under-23 coach bodes well for his chances of making the Olympic team.”

    I hope not. Bunbury is not currently good enough to make our Olympic team, even as a #3 forward (3 is all we will have, it’s a 18 man roster not 23) behind Altidore and Agudelo. I’d rather take a guy like Gomez or Wondo as an overage player than Bunbury. Heck take Sapong as an overage player over Bunbury.


  • Andrew

    While I am a huge USMNT fan and only hope Teal’s current frm transfers to the Nats, your comments regaring Drew Moor are rather innapropirate. Bunbury’s cheapshot antics agaisnt Moor will be detrimental to us at the national level. as on most world stages with decent referees that will continue to always earn at least a yellow card! Cheap shots that hurt players (moor hardly did anything to deserve that!) are not exactly the signs of a budding national star, and show a complete lack of character!

    that being said, I completely agree with you that I hope he matures into a much needed world class striker and doesnt dwindle away like EJ!

    No hard eelings, just anted to voice these opinions!


  • Bobo

    It looks like thug-ball and a loaded schedule are finally catching up with Colorado. They got a taste of their own medicine in the 1st leg.


  • Andrew

    get out of here! you would take wondo as an overage player? come on man. there is so much more value to obtain, and I think Bunbury is better for the international game right now. howard will obviously be one of the overage players, and we would be best off taking the most skilled players who fit needs (2 of Dempsey, Donovan, Boca/Onyewu, Cherundolo/Chandler. I think Teal has a good shot at making the team.


  • Rod

    He is finally imposing his size on the pitch…Sapong/Bunbury is going to be the top pair in the league. SKC is showed they can close out a team vs Colorado. They are going to be tough to beat for anybody.


  • jim b

    Add in Kamara’s size as well, he’s something like 6’2”. Scary front line and that doesn’t even count their DP Bravo


  • jim b

    I certainly didn’t make that comment as an insult to Moor. Firstly, I don’t view that play as a foul. Definatly not a cheap shot. Defenders make that exact same play on forwards all the time. What made it stand out in my eyes (pertaining to Bunbury’s exceptional size and speed) was the Teal completely overpowered a fellow professional. I’m guessing that Moor spends a good deal of time in the weightroom but Bunbury made it look easy. As I originally stated, the guy has incredible natural ability and all the right tools to be a monster. Hopefully he follows through


  • NATO

    about time Bunbury starts scoring. He would have made the Gold Cup roster had he been playing like that around May/June


  • Vic

    He has more goals than Agudelo and a better strike rate per 90 min. He also doesn’t turn over the ball as often as Agudelo.


  • CB

    Sounds like bobo doesnt know anything about the Rapids. They commited the second least amount of fouls this season, and 5th in fouls committed against them. Dont know how that makes a thug team. Plus, the big dumb lumbering doofus Connor Casey was out for the season, thats gotta take away a lot of the “thug” image right there, right?


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