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Teal Bunbury's Defense Is More Important Than His Offense

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Teal Bunbury was suspended last week against Columbus and the Revs were a disaster, because Bunbury's presence on defense has been a tremendous asset for the Revolution all season.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

During the New England Revolution-Columbus Crew game last week, Crew right back Eric Gehrig was constantly rampaging down the Revs left flank to join the attack. The fact that Gehrig never found the scoresheet with a goal or an assist in that game was a downright shame, because he deserved it.

The man marking him that day, or rather, was supposed to be marking him, was Diego Fagundez. But the reason the Revs wonder-kid was in the starting lineup was due to a yellow card suspension to Teal Bunbury. And it showed.

I put the following tweet out last weekend:

Teal Bunbury was brought in at the beginning of the year to theoretically replace Juan Agudelo up top as the Revs lone striker. And while Bunbury eventually settled into a "target winger" role that has practically evolved into a box-to-box midfield role on the right side.

Now, for those wondering, I did look up the some season totals for defensive statistics on WhoScored.com for a little compare/contrast between Bunbury and Fagundez. Teal has an edge in total tackles with 35 (1.3/Gm) to Diego's 24 (0.8/Gm) but that's not that stat that really bothers me. It's interceptions: Teal has 19 (0.7/Gm) while Diego only has 6 (0.2/Gm).

And it's surprising because that's what I'd expect Diego to be doing, using his quickness and speed to anticipate and cut down on the passing lanes. When he's back on defense, which against Columbus was only rarely, Diego should be effective in a support/double-team role. Against Columbus he had one tackle in the attacking half, one block inside Bobby Shuttleworth's box and two clearances near the endline. That's it, go look at his chalkboard, it's awful.

Meanwhile, if you go look at Teal Bunbury's chalkboard from his last game against the Montreal Impact, it is glorious. Four tackles, including two in the defensive half, seven total recoveries with five in the defensive half and a block at the top of the box. Oh, and he came back to help Farrell on double team in the corner, won the ball and then moved it up field with a dribble. The nutmeg was number 7 on the Top Ten Plays Of The Night from MLSsoccer.com.

Now, has Teal Bunbury been the player that we all hoped he would be at the beginning of the year? Has he effectively replaced Juan Agudelo on the Revs roster? No, but that's okay. He's not Agudelo and it was very clear that he wasn't a great fit for the lone striker role in Jay Heaps 4-1-4-1. So both Heaps and Bunbury adjusted, Teal moved out wide and has been quietly dominating ever since.

And by dominating, I mean putting in really impressive ninety-minute shifts that you never see in the boxscore.

It got me thinking about another striker turned winger/right midfielder that the Revs had last year and someone that was a fan favorite and I was disappointed the Revs didn't re-sign: Chad Barrett. Yes, the fiery journeyman that settled into a box-to-box midfield role off the bench last year, with a few appearances up top as well, is pretty much the same role that Bunbury has right now.

And one of the reasons why Barrett was one of my favorite players last year, aside from the clutch goals he's still scoring for the Seattle Sounders, is his tireless work on defense. Teal Bunbury is no different and he's one of my favorite players this year as well. Bunbury has the 5th most minutes played for the Revs this year, and is behind only Lee Nguyen in the attacking players in minutes played this year. His four goals and four assists on the year will never reflect the amount of work he's put in on the field, and perhaps combined with the expectations of replacing Agudelo and the 1st Round SuperDraft pick, might leave a lot of fans wondering why he isn't producing.

Well, Bunbury is producing. You just have to watch more closely, and count the number of times you see Bunbury help out in the defensive third.Te Like tonight when Bunbury will be tasked with shutting down Sporting Kansas City left back Seth Sinovic. Pay attention to that matchup and the chess match that goes on between those two players down the flank. Because there's a very good chance that whoever wins that individual matchup will be on the winning team tonight.

Teal Bunbury I'm sure would love nothing more than to go out a score a hat trick tonight in his old haunt at Sporting Park. But I'm sure he'll settle for creating a turnover in the midfield that leads to a Revs counterattack and goal.

It's a shame there's no box score for hard work.