BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, December 23, 2010
Few MLS players have had quite an active offseason as Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury who is now preparing for the annual national team January camp.
In addition to next month's camp in Carson, California, Bunbury, 20, earned his first cap against South Africa, played in Spain with fellow Generation Adidas players and trained with Stoke City of the EPL.
He returned from England over the weekend after his 10 day training stint with Stoke and he feels that he is walking away from the experience a better player.
"It was great. It was really an amazing experience," Bunbury said of training at Stoke. "I was only there for a week and a half. Being around players like Eidur Guojohnsen and Kenwyne Jones and the whole staff and training facility there was really good. From a player's standpointd it was great to see that and bring it back to KC and work on things I learned there."
Bunbury also left England on a high note as he received positive feedback from the coaches at Stoke for his play.
"They really enjoyed my time there," Bunbury discussed of how he left things with the West Midlands club. "They appreciated me coming out there. They said I was a good kid and were really impressed with me. They will be keeping an eye out for me in the future. It was a good training experience for me."
The training stint at Stoke was a well-rounded experience for Bunbury who learned what it takes to play at the next level.
"For me to be able to play at that level, I need to think faster and opportunities I get, I have to take advantage of them because they are fewer at that level," assessed Bunbury. "From what I saw, I didn't get as many chances so I feel like I just have to take advantage of things."
As for his current club status, Bunbury is happy at Kansas City but he did not dismiss that the English Premier League is somewhere where he would eventually like to play at some point in his future.
Obtaining an English work permit would be difficult as Bunbury does not have an EU passport, but it still remains a dream to play in what he considers to be one of the top leagues in the world.
"Obviously right now I am committed to Kansas City but in the future I feel like I want to test myself against the best of the best," Bunbury admitted. "Ever since I was a little, I dreamed of playing in the Premier League."
The highlight of Bunbury's time with Stoke came when he played in a friendly against Wigan and found the back of the net through a nice run that sent him in on goal. Even though Wigan won the game 3-1, Bunbury was excited to be able to score at that level.
"I was playing up top with Gudjohnsen and before the game told me to ‘go out there and play for yourself and I'll be looking for you,'" Bunbury described. "He actually got the ball in the middle part of the final third and took a player on. I kind of just opened up my run and he slipped me through. I was one-on-one with the keeper and slid it past him. It was great being able to score in an environment like that."
On a surprising note, after playing at Stoke, Bunbury came away impressed not only with the English Premier League but also MLS which he feels is not that far behind in terms of quality.
"I don't really think that MLS is too far off, to be honest," the former Akron Zip compared. "I was only there a week and a half so it's really hard for me to judge on that short amount of time. But I don't really think that the MLS is too far off. "
Bunbury is now in Minnesota for the holidays and a few days of rest before he returns to action in Carson for the beginning of the annual January camp which will end with a friendly against Chile on January 22nd at the Home Depot Center.
"I've heard that it's going to be a lot of fitness so I am going to be preparing for that," Bunbury predicted. "I am just going to try to showcase what I can do. Nothing is given. I just have to go in and impress and show I belong."
Bunbury first arrived on the US national team radar when he made his international debut for the United States in their 1-0 victor over South Africa in Cape Town. While his first cap came with just one MLS season under his belt, it left him with the desire to earn more opportunities to play on world's stage.
"It really helped my game out," Bunbury said of his first cap. "It made me realize that I have to stay hungry in order to cement myself into the national team. Every chance I get now wherever I am playing I have to realize that maybe someone is watching and that it will give me a better opportunity to sell my game."
In the game against South Africa, Bunbury was active in the attack against the South African defense where he teamed up with Juan Agudelo who was also earning his first cap.
The following week, both Bunbury and Agudelo traveled to Spain with a team consisting of the Generation Adidas players in MLS. On that tour, the Generation Adidas team defeated the reserve teams of Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano.
Bunbury scored twice in the 4-1 victory over Atletico Madrid and once against Real Madrid. The success of Agudelo and Bunbury in recent weeks has seen some suggest that the two could become an elite tandem for the US national team.
"It was really fun playing with Juan down in South Africa and on the Generation Adidas trip," Bunbury said of playing with Agudelo. "I think if we keep playing together and keep building that chemistry we can be a really good partnership."
As for now, Bunbury is back home in Minnesota resting from an off-season that has been, at times, more intense than the MLS season. With the intensity resuming in less than two weeks, Bunbury admits he is happy to have some time off.
"It's been really, really hectic," Bunbury concluded. "So I am glad that I now have the time to relax."