Remember how Wyle E. Coyote always failed to catch the speedy Roadrunner? I remember feeling slightly sorry for the conniving carnivore until I realized that Wyle probably should have just gone to a Texas Roadhouse to satisfy his cravings instead. It's true that, even in cartoons, speed kills. And speed and quickness have been a major factor in the New England Revolution's successes.
When Teal Bunbury was signed at the beginning of the season, Revs nation hoped that he could fill the void left by Juan Agudelo as the lone striker. However, finding a player with that quality in the final third is rare to come by, and finding the net proved to be difficult for the new signing. Indeed, the road wasn't straight and narrow for Bunbury as he failed to hold up the ball and get himself into good positions. In truth, he looked lost up top, and would often drop off deep or out wide, making it clear to Jay Heaps that he wasn't comfortable in this role. When he was up top, the one promising aspect of his play was his speed and ability to receive balls in behind the defense. But, after a string of disappointing performances, it looked as though this was another failed experiment until Jay Heaps deployed him on the wing.
Teal Bunbury's move to the wing coincided with the introduction of the rookie Patrick Mullins, who has taken the lone striker role in stride. With Bunbury deployed on the right and Diego Fagundez on the left, opposing teams have to be constantly aware of the whereabouts of these players. His off-the-ball movement, and diagonal runs in particular, have been nothing short of phenomenal. Most of his runs are timed so he can get in behind the defense. His movement out wide and across the middle opens up space for players like Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, and Daigo Kobayashi to move into and then create chances. Another strong attribute that cannot be overlooked is his defensive work rate, and having a player who can run 70-yards up and back not only strengthens a defense, but also inspires teammates to do the same.
Teal Bunbury has scored 2 goals and has 3 assists to his name, but he won't be known for silky smooth ball handling, or finesse in front of the goal. Indeed, his importance to the team goes far beyond those numbers so expect him to continue to play a significant role as the New England Revolution try and sort out their most recent troubles.