KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After a banner start to his young career, Teal Bunbury was bound to have a hiccup at some point or another.
On Monday, United States national team manager Bob Bradley announced the 23-man roster he will be taking to this summer’s Gold Cup. Bunbury, considered a strong candidate to be called up, wasn’t one of the 23.
“Obviously, it was disappointing,” Bunbury said. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t [disappointed].”
While Juan Agudelo, Jozy Altidore and Chris Wondolowski will vie for minutes up top for the USMNT in June, Bunbury will be back in Kansas City, watching the US take part in a competition he hoped would represent the next step in his international career.
And despite the frustration of watching the Gold Cup from afar, the situation presents a prime motivational tool for Bunbury, who has already played in two games for the US and scored his first international goal a little more than a year after turning professional.
Asked on the conference call to announce the roster why exactly Bunbury was left out, Bradley said it was simple. He just wasn’t in the type of form the coaching staff would have liked, and others, Wondolowski in particular, played their way onto the roster.
Bunbury scored a combined three goals in the first two games of the season, but hasn’t scored in any of the previous five games. Wondolowski, meanwhile, has scored three of his five goals this season in the last five games.
“I have a few goals,” Bunbury said. “But I need to be scoring more. As a striker, that’s my duty. Like Bob said, the past few games I haven’t been as sharp as I should have been or could be.”
In the end, however, Bunbury’s absence from the US roster is Sporting Kansas City’s gain.
Already forced to do without Roger Espinoza (Honduras), Craig Rocastle (Grenada), Shavar Thomas (Jamaica) and Stéphane Auvray (Guadeloupe) during the tournament, manager Peter Vermes will now have a full complement of forwards to choose from as Sporting open their new stadium and attempt to put their dreadful start behind them.
“There is no doubt that it benefits us in some way,” Vermes said. “But I also know that it’s something that [Teal] wanted to do, and I understand what it is to play for your country.”
Vermes, who is understandably high on Bunbury as a player and national team prospect, seemed confident that the 21-year-old striker would be in the squad as late as Thursday of last week. Even though it wasn’t to be, Vermes said he has no doubt that Bunbury’s approach to the game and still developing talent would afford him more opportunities in the future.
“It’s not like he is going to fold up camp and go home,” Vermes said. “He’s not that kind of kid. This is just a small speed bump in his career.”
Still, it’s a setback that stings more than a little bit.
Just days after Bunbury helps Sporting open their new stadium against the Chicago Fire, he’ll have to watch as the US take on Guadeloupe at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. Knowing he narrowly missed out on the opportunity to be on that field will be difficult, but Bunbury said it would only motivate him more to get back to where he wants to be.
“Things like this only make a person stronger as a player and in life in general,” he said. “It’s going to make me work harder, and I wish all the guys luck. I’m going to be supporting them all the way.”