PHOENIX — It is the perfect situation to prove exactly what you can do. That’s what the young guns from Sporting Kansas City believe, anyway.
SKC forwards Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong know there is a huge opportunity before them with the US men's national team still looking for reliable strikers. They hope to continue to develop something special at the club level, just like they did in 2011, so it can translate into something special on the international stage.
"That only makes sense," Bunbury, who is entering his third professional season, told reporters last week during the Phoenix portion of January camp. "If we play well for our club, we hope to get the same opportunity on the national team, the [USMNT] coaches will be willing to gives us a chance."
Bunbury and Sapong combined for 14 goals and eight assists last season but started just eight games together. Now with Mexican hitman Omar Bravo out of the picture at Sporting, the two will likely see consistent time together up top in the club's 4-3-3 formation — the same one US coach Jurgen Klinsmann is fond of implementing with the national team.
"Me and Teal will probably be pairing up a lot this season and we're going to need to if we want to build on the run we made last year," said Sapong, who was named the 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year after tallying five goals and five assists. "Any extra time we get together, especially underneath such great tutelage under Jurgen Klinsmann, is going to do wonders for our career."
The pair have done well for themselves in the national team January camp. Fellow Sporting teammate Graham Zusi is also impressing, and got on the score sheet in both of the senior team's scrimmages with their U-23 counterparts at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., over the past four days. Having familiar faces in the mix has certainly helped the trio feel more comfortable during scrimmages.
"We feed off each other and work with each other," Bunbury said.
After a year spent together at Sporting, Sapong said working well with Bunbury in scrimmages, matches and drills has become "natural."
"We communicate beforehand to try to figure out what is expected out of us in drills and what will make us successful," Sapong said. "Also, throughout the drill, we're constantly communicating, trying to help each other with positioning. It's something that we’ve always been doing, so it's nothing new. It's a really good feeling to have someone you're used to."
The two young forwards' relationship off the field has also developed, as they aim to become a thriving force in MLS and for the US moving into 2012.
"We're really good friends," Sapong said. "It's not just soccer. We can talk about anything. We joke around a lot. He's fun. I'm fun. There are times when you have to keep focused, but there is also a time where you can relax, hang out and enjoy being here."