Teal Bunbury Explains His Decision to Play for the USMNT and Assesses His First Year in MLS
IMS caught up with Teal Bunbury late Thursday evening. It had been a busy day for the Minnesotan. Earlier in the day, U.S. Soccer announced that Bunbury had accepted a call up to the U.S. Men’s National Team and would be joining the team in South Africa for their next game. Bunbury flew out to Washington D. C. on Friday morning and then planned on making the 15-hour flight to Africa. He told IMS that he knew he was chosen for the team a week ago and it was difficult to keep the news to himself.
Bunbury talked to IMS about his decision to play for the U.S. and assesses his first year in MLS with the Kansas City Wizards.
IMS: Teal, congratulations on the news today.
Bunbury: Thank you. When I first found out I was excited. Really excited. It’s been sort of hectic day in a good way. People have been calling me and texting non-stop and I’ve been doing a lot of interviews.
IMS: What are your expectations for this trip to South Africa.
Bunbury: I’ve always dreamed of playing internationally, but I’m just expecting to learn. It will just be a few training sessions and a game. So I’m going to try to soak it in as much as possible including the whole atmosphere with the whole other culture of soccer over there. I don’t know if I’ll get to play but I just plan on showcasing myself and do what I have to in order to get on the field and play.
IMS: Teal, you played for Canada in their youth system and you told me last year that if the U.S. were to call you would turn them down and play for Canada. I know you told MLSSoccer.com yesterday that it came down to your chances of playing in a World Cup. You felt you had the best chance of doing that was with U.S. Understandably there are some people north of the border that are not real happy about that decision.
Bunbury: It was inevitable. I ultimately had to do what was best for me. I’m not necessarily out there trying to please each and every person. That’s my decision and I’m really happy about it.
IMS: What happened over this last year to change your mind?
Bunbury: I don’t think it was anything in particular or any miraculous moment that changed my mind. I just took the time to sit down and think it over. I also spent time talking to my family about it. My dad especially but also my agent. My dad wasn’t pushing me to play for either team and ultimately he gave me his blessings to play for the U.S. and wanted what was best for his son.
IMS: Looking back on your season with the Kansas City Wizards, you didn’t get a lot of play time in the beginning of the season which everyone might expect for a rookie forward. But your minutes increased as you seemed to gain Peter Vermes’ trust.
Bunbury: I was pleased with the overall picture. Obviously I would have loved to play more and score more goals. But I’m happy. I feel like I really grew and matured as a player from the preseason until now. As you said, I do feel like I’ve gained my coach’s trust and he has faith in me now. I just feel privileged and blessed to have the season that I did.
IMS: It’s a big step for a college player just finishing his sophomore year to step up and play pro. There’s a lot of differences in speed and quality, amongst other things. What sort of adjustments did you have to make through the season and is that something you got a feel for by time spent on the field or was it things your coaches worked on with you?
Bunbury: Obviously I have a long ways to go and a lot of things to learn. For me the biggest adjustment was learning how to use my size and my strength, the things I’ve been blessed with.
Another adjustment was learning how to get my teammates involved with the game as well. At Akron, I was able to do something on my own without using my teammates. In the professional level you definitely have to learn how to use your teammates well and focus a lot more on making runs off the ball. Things like where to make your runs, how to make your runs and when to make your runs. I’ve learned that it’s those things you do when the ball isn’t in close proximity to your body that’s often the biggest difference. So I think my knowledge of the game has gotten a lot better.
IMS: Does your father (Alex Bunbury) still try to share some insight as well?
Bunbury: There’s not a time I talk to my dad that he doesn’t give me some tips. Sometimes I may not always want to hear it but usually it’s things I need to hear to become better.
IMS: Where are you living in the offseason?
Bunbury: I’m still in KC and have been working out with the team trying to stay fit. When I get back from the trip to South Africa I’ll be heading back up to Minnesota for Thanksgiving and I have a few other trips planned for the holidays. So for the most part I’ll be back and forth.