Teal Bunbury is a man on a mission. Leading the line for Sporting KC and with aspirations to play both abroad and for the United States, he knows it’s going to take a lot of hard work. He kindly sat down with me to talk about his good friend Juan Agudelo, as well as how he see’s the season panning out for Sporting KC.
Kris Heneage (Kris): Obviously it’s been hard to ignore that Chad Ochocinco has been in and around the camp training. What was your gut instinct when that whole thing came about?
Teal Bunbury (Teal): “When I first heard about it, I didn’t know really if it was going to happen or not. And then, when I really did find out that he was going to be there, I was excited to be there because I’ve seen him in the media, and he was someone that I wanted to be. And given the opportunity to finally meet him, hang out with him, and just see what he was all about, was great. Really.”
Kris: Do you think, in some ways, his appearance, is good for soccer in the US because it possibly opens you up to other markets, and proves it’s not an easy sport?
Teal: “Yeah, I think it does most definitely. I think he tweeted about some saying that he’s been at the highest level of his professional realm, and coming here to try soccer is really hard for him. So I mean it shows that soccer is not an easy sport, and that it takes a lot to understand the game, not just be an amazing athlete. So I really think it does open the markets up to more people in the US understanding that soccer is a great sport and they should take a look at it.”
Kris: Recently the US played Argentina, which meant some teams were without players. Is that a bit annoying for you as a player that you can potentially lose players just for a friendly?
Teal: “No, I don’t think it is. I think games like that are important. Playing for your national team is important and so is playing for your club team. But if you are given that opportunity, I think it’s great, like most teams, they have players to back those players up that get called into things like that, are able to handle situations where you might miss a play here, or a player might be injured or something like that, so I don’t think it’s that bad of a thing.”
Kris: And in regards to you, you spent December with Stoke City, a Premier League side. How was that?
Teal: “Oh, it was great. I was there for a week and a half, and I loved every minute of it. The organization was great to me. The training facility was one of a kind. The players were really nice. Just playing at that level, and that caliber was great. I was only there for a week and a half, and I could see myself improving and just learning things quicker. It was my dream. I mean it still is my dream to play overseas in England. So yeah, it was great to be able to train with them and they gave me a great opportunity. And yeah, it was a lot of fun.”
Kris: I know your dad spent time with West Ham. Have you discussed England with him? Was he positive or negative about England because obviously his time there was only brief.
Teal: “Yeah, he was really positive about it. When he talked about when he played there, obviously the game has changed a lot now, but he feels that my future, if something happens, he wouldn’t say no for me to play there, or anything like that. He was very supportive that he just wants me to get to places where I can learn the most and improve my game and develop as a player.”
Kris: So, on top of that, you have played for the US, and you played for the Canadian Youth side. Was that an easy decision to change to the US. Or was that a long term thing that you thought, you know what, I’ve probably got better chances with the US?
Teal: “Well, it was more-so where I felt my heart lies. I mean, it wasn’t the easiest of decisions obviously, because my dad played for Canada obviously, hall of famer and all of these things. He didn’t push me in either direction but I really took the time to talk to my family and things like that. I just felt like it was the best for me in my career, and I felt like, I’ve lived in the States longer. It just felt stronger ties with the US. So I’m really happy with my decision. And yeah, it’s been good.”
Kris: You’ll have probably seen the Argentina game recently. Be honest. Does Juan’s goal annoy you a bit? Do you think “Ah, no i’ve just fallen a rung down the pecking order.”
Teal: “Oooh no no haha not at all. Juan’s my boy. I talked to him after the game and told him he had a great game and it was a good goal and stuff like that. So no it doesn’t bother me at all. It’s good to have competition and that’s what I want. It brings the best out of players. So you know I’ll just have to work that much harder to get a look and get an opportunity to showcase what I can do.”
Kris: Much like yourself he wasn’t born in America. He moved there. Do you think it’s good that America’s almost widening it’s net to players who aren’t necessarily 100% American, if that makes sense?
Teal: “Yeah, I thinks it good. If a player is good enough and you want them and you feel that they are worthy, then yes go for it.”
Kris: Now back to your club for a moment. You recently lost to Chicago 3-2 with Omar Bravo seeing red. How important do you think Omar is to Sporting KC’s chances this season?
Teal: “He’s real important. Obviously he’s new this year but through pre-season and the season starting out you can tell he’s been gelling with the chemistry and the guys all in there. He’s going to be a key factor this season and it’s unfortunate we have to lose him but obviously we have other guys that can come in and fill in his place that way.”
Kris: I mean it’s a new team in the sense of the name change. The Wizards were seen as a not quite traditional soccer name. Do things like that ever bother the players? Or do they just say you know what it’s the same shirt it’s the same city, who cares?
Teal: “Yeah it hasn’t really bothered any of the players and in fact I feel like most of the players are embracing it and really liked the name change. It’s something new. Obviously there’s some Portuguese teams that have the ‘Sporting’ there name. To me it gives me a feeling of more European. It hasn’t been a detriment to any of the players I think a few fans didn’t know what to think at first but obviously it’s going to take some time to adjust to it and embrace it.”
Kris: A lot of English fans like myself will recognise Ryan Smith in the Sporting KC roster. How do you think he’s taken to the league. Were you impressed with what he brings?
Teal: “I think he’s great for the league and our team. He’s got the speed, the technical ability and loves to take players on. Hopefully he can get healthy pretty soon and start playing in games.”
Kris: I asked Dax McCarty this so i’ll ask you the same. Who’s the dressing room DJ who grabs the iPod before training or a game?
Teal: “There’s a few guys actually, I sometimes do. Michael Harrington, Kei Kamara. For game time switch up their iPod’s and get the music going. Who’s the fastest in training? Oh I don’t know I think we’d have to race. I mean we have a lot of fast guys.”
Kris: Is that something you think Sporting KC’s game is based on, speed?
Teal: “I definitely think it is. Our core is very fast and that’s what we try to employ on our game-plan, in terms of transition. Put pressure on teams but also when we go at teams we try to incorporate that into our game.”
Kris: I know it’s early into the season but how do you see the club’s season panning out?
Teal: “I mean we are going to keep progressing as the season goes on. All of us have a winning mentality and all of us want to make the MLS Cup and that’s our mentality. I’m not going to say no we aren’t going to make the play-offs or anything like that. In all our minds we are striving to make the playoff’s and so on.”
Kris: Do you have a team in Europe, someone you look out for maybe?
Teal: “Yeah I follow Arsenal.”
Kris: Oh wow they could do with you right now. I mean is England the first choice for you?
Teal: [laughs] “Yeah I mean France, Spain, Italy… any of those would be nice but I’ve always wanted to play in England since I was little. All the top European countries are big with soccer I’d love to play in.”
Kris: What happens if come the summer Tottenham bid for you. Do you join Tottenham?
Teal: “Haha right now I can’t comment, I’m just focusing on the season with Sporting KC. I’m just focusing on what I can control and working hard to get my teams in the play-offs.”
Kris: Do you see a long term future at KC? Is that sometimes frustrating when you have players like Dax McCarty who spent literally days with Portland before being traded?
Teal: “Not really frustrating but it keeps you on your toes and you have to always be thinking. I think it keeps you on your toes because you never really know if you’re cemented on a team or if there’s a trade or something like that. So I think it’s not really frustrating because that’s just how the business works.”
Kris: In terms of the USMNT they seem to be breeding quite a young strikeforce. Do you think they could sometimes benefit from a slightly older head amongst them?
Teal: “I’m behind whatever the coaching staff think the team needs. I’m really not one to say we need this one, or need that one and still accomplish before I could start saying things like that.”
Kris: I would imagine Brazil 2014 is earmarked for you. Do you think that tournament could be a big one for the US?
Teal: “Oh definitely. It’s going to be huge. Any World Cup the US is in is huge for us. Obviously I want to be striving to be on that team. I know I’ve got a long way to go. I know everyone’s excited but it’s still a long ways away.”
Kris: We mentioned your friend Juan Aguedelo. Do you think it’s important he’s ushered in slowly to avoid burn out?
Teal: “I don’t know about slowly, I hear that thing about age, but I say if a player is good enough, let him play. He’s old enough, so I don’t know if he really needs to be put on slowly. Obviously you don’t want him to get worn out or anything but if he’s good enough he’s old enough. I feel like what he’s doing right now is great. He’s showcasing his abilities.”
Kris: I’ll finish with a slightly controversial question. With players like Thierry Henry and other designated players earning such big salaries, do you think it can create a distance between the guys on big money and those on less?
Teal: “I honestly don’t think it can be detrimental. Those players are getting paid for the fact of what they did in the past and because how good they really are, so I don’t think it’s detrimental. The designated players I’ve seen really exceeded expectations for the most part, so I don’t think it’s a worry for most players.”