When Teal Bunbury was signed by the New England Revolution in 2014 there was a general sense of buzz and excitement surrounding the move. The former Sporting Kansas City striker after all was one of the brighter young players in the league and had shown signs of promise in his limited time with the United States National Team.
Then, as the first few weeks of the 2014 season came and went, Bunbury was leaving fans with a borderline taste of disappointment in their mouth. Deployed as the team's lone target forward, the 25-year-old showed glimpses of potential, but struggled to piece together the complete package. He would challenge for the ball strongly and display decent hold-up play, only to then miss chances when they came his way. All it takes is one glance at the below video to see this unfolding.
That's from the Revs' 2-0 loss at DC United in early April. Teal gets into a good spot, shows off some nifty footwork, and just misses the finish. The idea was there, but the execution was lacking.
With the frustrations mounting up, Jay Heaps dropped Bunbury from the lineup for small periods of time. But then, as cliche as it is, Heaps reinvented the wheel so to speak with Bunbury. He deployed the Revs' No. 10 out wide right in a winger role. However, he wasn't playing as a winger in the traditional sense.
Bunbury was to use his tireless work rate and deceptively strong defensive skills to become a target winger. He would also have the license to take on an onlooking defender on the dribble, combine with the more creative midfielders, and most importantly serve as a crucial outlet on the right flank.
As the rest of the season wore on, Bunbury thrived in the target winger position. He cemented himself in the starting lineup and made it clear why the Revs thought so highly of him back when they acquired him in the summer. The real Teal Bunbury was found.
Then, as the playoffs rolled around, Bunbury showed to the rest of MLS how his new role in New England had resulted in an extremely dangerous player. He became a driving force in the Revs' run to MLS Cup, scored against the Columbus Crew in the playoffs, nearly chipped Jaime Penedo in the championship match, and audaciously pulled this wonder-strike off against the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Not bad at all Teal, not bad at all. Looking at his season overall though, it shows a player who experienced his fair share of ups and downs. He came in with high expectations, only to falter some in the beginning of the campaign, and then resurrect his season and tactical awareness in grandiose fashion.
The bigger issue and theme at play though was a lack of consistency. Bunbury has an immense amount of talent and athleticism; the only problem is seeing it translate onto the pitch in 2015. As Bunbury showed in the latter half of the Revs' season, he can be a crucial offensive weapon for the Revs. His numbers also back it up too, as he finished the 2014 season with four goals and six assists.
Now, as 2015 slowly approaches, the onus is on Bunbury to get the job done and do it with regularity - especially among a crowded and talented attacking corps. If he can do that, The Fort and Revs fans alike may just have to turn this into a song.
Not blue! Not green! But somewhere in between! He's Teal! He's Teal! #NERevs— The Rebellion (@NErebellion) November 9, 2014