KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Teal Bunbury is spending the latter part of this week getting ready to face Chivas USA, a period many expected he would be consumed by a winner-take-all match at Livestrong Sporting Park with a berth in the London Olympics on the line.
And although his coach and teammates sympathize with the Sporting Kansas City striker’s disappointment after the US Olympic team was eliminated from the CONCACAF qualifying tournament following a 3-all draw against El Salvador, they’re also glad to have him back for this weekend and the upcoming summer.
“From a selfish perspective, it’s a great thing,” manager Peter Vermes said Wednesday, after Bunbury trained with the team for the first time in two weeks. “But if you’d asked me prior to, would I have hoped the team wouldn’t have made the Olympics so we’d get Teal for the rest of the season, I would never have signed on for that.”
Midfielder Graham Zusi echoed that sentiment.
WATCH: Sporting stays undefeated against FCD
“It’s kind of bittersweet for him,” Zusi said. “It’s unfortunate to not see him play in the Olympics, but we’re glad to have him back with the team.”
Bunbury also missed part of the preseason while on national team duty, along with Zusi and forward C.J. Sapong. But with almost everyone back from the Sporting side that finished atop Eastern Conference last season and came within one game of playing for the MLS Cup, Bunbury said it never takes him long to fit back in.
“The chemistry’s there from last year, just knowing these guys on and off the field,” Bunbury told MLSsoccer.com. “As soon as I get back, I just jell with the guys and get right back in the gameplan.”
It also helps, in easing the transition, that national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann and U-23 coach Caleb Porter both used Bunbury in his club position, as the center forward in a 4-3-3.
“He’s ready to be a part of the team right away,” Vermes said. “He’s played one and a half games, basically, for them, trained the whole time. Actually, he’s played a little more than that because of the scrimmage they had early on. He’s in form. From that perspective, I don’t see him missing a beat – and he’s healthy, too, which is great.”
Bunbury began the season as Vermes’ No. 1 up top, but Sapong has started both games in his absence and has already scored twice in the first three games. Vermes said he hasn’t yet decided who will get the nod on Sunday at Chivas USA (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Bunbury, for his part, just wants to get back on the pitch for the only 3-0-0 side in the league.
“It’s up to the coaches whether they want me to travel or not, but I want to go, personally,” he said. “I want to play. I want to start scoring goals and being a part of the team. Being away and watching them play, it looks like they’re enjoying playing. I just want to be a part of that and help as much as I can.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.