FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It wasn’t where he was expected to play when he got to New England, but Teal Bunbury’s emergence and continued improvement along the right wing looks likely to play a key factor as the Revolution try to overcome a midseason swoon and chase a postseason berth.
Traded from Sporting Kansas City to New England in February, Bunbury's role at striker was intact until coach Jay Heaps shook up the lineup in late April. That move pushed the veteran to a wide right spot, with Patrick Mullins inserted at forward, and Bunbury has earned positive reviews from his teammates for his efforts.
“He’s a huge reason why we’ve won a bunch a games, and he’s a reason why we’re in a lot of games,” said defender A.J. Soares told MLSsoccer.com. “If we’re going to make a run into the playoffs late in the season, he’s going to be a big part of it.”
While it has taken Bunbury time to adapt to the position, he has found different ways to make an impact. Bunbury saw almost immediate results out wide by scoring his first goal of the season against his old club on April 26. Two matches later, he added a goal and an assist, showing off a playmaking ability that he rarely demonstrated when he was mainly tasked with getting shots on target from a central role.
Both the Revolution and Bunbury have been quiet since mid-May, but deflected cross to Charlie Davies in New England's last game, a 2-1 loss to New York on Aug. 2, gave Bunbury his team-leading fourth assist on the season and set a new personal best.
“I enjoy playing,” said Bunbury. “If I can score goals, assist, work hard, that’s what I’m going to do.”
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Bunbury has also showed notable improvement defensively, using his speed to track back and help cut down opponents' runs.
“The thing with Teal that you can never fault is his work rate and his fitness level,” said Soares. “Those things usually lead to a player that is going to defend and work hard for the team. Attacking players don’t particularly like to defend, but he does it anyway.”
Of course the scoring ability and that striker’s mentality still rise to the forefront of Bunbury’s game, but the added aspects of his game are what the Revolutiona re hoping will help them deep into the schedule. Bunbury, meanwhile, is eager to deliver the goods.
"I’m trying to make an impact offensively and defensively," said Bunbury, "and do whatever it takes to help our team win.”