KANSAS CITY, Kan. – It’s taken most of five months for Teal Bunbury to round into form, but Sporting Kansas City are finally starting to see the best of their effervescent striker.
Bunbury had no problem separating himself from the Houston defense Saturday afternoon at Livestrong Sporting Park, bursting onto two brilliant balls from Graham Zusi and Júlio César to drop his second brace of the season and propel Kansas City to a 3-0 victory.
His seven goals so far are two more than he scored as a rookie, an improvement that is unlikely to stop any time soon while Bunbury and Sporting look to build towards the best record in the Eastern Conference.
“When [Teal] is as physical as he was and finds himself teetering on that last line, he puts a lot of fear in a lot of teams,” manager Peter Vermes said. “He’s very direct, can go to goal and really has breakaway speed. When he gets around the goal, I think he can be deadly.”
Deadly only begins to describe Bunbury’s performance against the Dynamo.
He scored on two of his three shots and was clinical with both feet, claiming the game’s opening goal in the ninth minute by stabbing the ball past Tally Hall with his right foot. Then he added a second with a well-placed strike with his left 35 minutes into the second half.
But aside from his efficiency in front of net, Houston simply had no answer for Bunbury’s pace and the service originating from deep areas that sprung him.
“They were great balls in [to me],” Bunbury said. “I feel like I was just trying to be more aware, trying to make more runs. I know if I’m one on one with a guy, it’s my job to try to get in behind, get on the ball and finish.”
Bunbury finished both plays with aplomb, but the balls played into him were equally brilliant.
Júlio César’s driven half-volley into space to set up Bunbury’s second could be partially attributed to good fortune, but there was nothing lucky about the pass Zusi curled behind Andre Hainault to set up his teammate for the match opener.
Zusi picked the ball up off the Sporting back line, drove toward the touchline and whipped a ball into the central channel for Bunbury without even picking up his head.
“That’s something we discuss quite a bit, just the no-look ball in behind the defense,” Zusi said. “It’s very unexpected for them. We always try to have one of our forwards peeling off to get in behind them. It worked out pretty well today.”
In fact, just about everything worked out well for Kansas City and Bunbury on Saturday.
“I’m feeling good,” Bunbury said. “I’m having fun with it. You have to have fun and enjoyment. Credit to my teammates and coaches sticking by me. It’s just great to get wins. I love winning.”
And Vermes can’t help but love what he’s seeing from his promising young forward, even if Bunbury is still only scratching the surface of his potential.
“I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet,” Vermes said. “I really don’t.”