Teal Bunbury only played 136 minutes in the first 17 games of 2017. It was a trying time for the striker, who was a regular starter during his first three seasons with the New England Revolution. Although frustrated, Bunbury remained positive that his time would come.
“My faith in the Lord actually keeps me really strong during certain times of my life, and I think this stretch, I’ve been able to put my faith in Him and know that when my opportunity comes, I want to make the most of it,” Bunbury explained.
Bunbury came to practice every day ready to work. He wanted to be a team player. He wanted to be the hardest working guy on the pitch. More than anything else, he wanted more minutes.
His first opportunity came when he started against the Philadelphia Union on July 2, a game that ended as a devastating 3-0 loss. Bunbury remained in the starting lineup three days later when the Revs hosted the New York Red Bulls. Although he scored in that match, his side ultimately lost 3-2.
After a break for the Gold Cup, Bunbury returned to the bench against the LA Galaxy, a move that coach Jay Heaps said he “lost a little bit of sleep over.” When Bunbury entered in the 65th minute, he played with a chip on his shoulder, scoring two twice to help the Revs grab a 4-3 victory.
That game put him back into contention for a starting spot, something he’s earned twice in the last three games. His most recent came against the Vancouver Whitecaps where he scored the game-winner.
With a host of talented strikers, including Designated Player Kei Kamara, US international Juan Agudelo, and incoming TAM signing Cristian Nemeth, Bunbury isn’t guaranteed to start when the Revs travel to New York City FC. Heaps will ultimately give the nod to the players he thinks can best execute the game plan of the day.
“I know [Bunbury] doesn’t like starting one game and coming off the bench in the other, but he’s also, for me, a tactical piece, and we decide we can play a little differently with what he brings,” Heaps explained.
When Bunbury is on the field, expect to see him challenging opponents with his speed. This means he’ll be using his pace to get behind the back line or to stretch the field as a way of providing space for others. The tireless runs that Bunbury makes are reminiscent of what was seen during the Revs’ 2014 run to the MLS Cup Final, which might be a good omen for a team hoping to secure a playoff spot.
“We need those types of runs up top,” Kelyn Rowe said. “That was a type of run that got us to the finals when Charlie [Davies] was in there, and Teal — they do that well.
“If [opposing defenders] don’t follow, then you’re open. If they follow, it’s going to leave another guy open, but it’s those types of runs that make — defenses can’t track with other players.”