PANAMA CITY, Panama – This year’s intense January national team camp has proved an opportunity for many MLS players not only to make a case with the US, but also to raise the level of their games before heading back to their clubs. With German striking legend Jurgen Klinsmann at the helm, the chance for feedback and improvement has been a particularly useful one for speedster Teal Bunbury.
The Sporting Kansas City striker has been here before – he scored a goal against Chile in the game that capped last year’s January camp. But a year later, and having established himself as a force in MLS, Bunbury sees the national team camp as a place to refine his skills and become a better all around player.
“These are always great opportunities to interact with the guys, get a feel for where you are as a player, the things you need to work on and improve on,” he said before Tuesday's practice at Estadio Rommel Fernández.
After a muted performance over the weekend against Venezuela, Bunbury received some detailed feedback from the coach about the elements of his game that need to improve if he wants to make an impact at the international level.
“I’ve had conversations with [Klinsmann] before,” Bunbury said. "He’s told me basically where he thinks I’m at. He’s always talking and giving me pointers how to get where I want to be. I’ve got to participate more defensively and maybe focus my runs a little more, concentrate more in front of goal. “[Venezuela] was my first game in three months, so there was a little rust.”
Despite looking somewhat isolated in the lone striker role on Saturday, the tall American is ready to give that position another shot against La Marea Roja.
“In [KC], that’s the position that I play,” he said. “It all comes down to chemistry. That’s why in KC I feel good. Coming into camps like this, you don’t have that chemistry, you have to build it. But I like playing that lone role, or having another strike partner. I feel like I could do either.”
Bunbury will hope to score his first goal from the run of play for the US Wednesday in Panama. But whether he finds the net this time or not, the striker is looking like a more rounded player heading into the new MLS season.
That’s good news for Kansas City skipper Peter Vermes, who lost veteran forward Omar Bravo over the winter.
“Omar Bravo had a great year, but we have guys who can step in,” Bunbury said. “Talking to Peter just a few days ago, he was stressing to me how talented the group is, how determined. The main group of guys is still there. One or two players are gone, but we can always start with the level high and everyone on the same page.”