Teal Bunbury - New England Revolution - dribbling

Teal Bunbury had as much reason as anyone in MLS to think twice about leaving home for over a month to take part in the MLS is Back Tournament.

The New England Revolution veteran has two young daughters at home, 2-year-old Sienna and her 4-month-old little sister Shaye, a handful during normal times. It’s a particularly daunting prospect as a solo job for his wife, Kaity, in COVID-19 times.

“Early on we didn't know what to expect,” Bunbury told MLSsoccer.com. “The proposal didn’t seem doable for me and maybe a lot of guys, with the length of time, different protocols and things like that. But as time went on and as we got the full scale and kind of restructured what this tournament was going to look like, it made it easier for me to make a decision. I mean, this is my job, at the end of the day. I get paid to do this.

“It was moreso, is it going to be safe, what's the duration of time, is my family going to be taken care of when I'm gone? And as those things became more clear, it was easier and easier for me to make a decision.”

The Bunbury clan arranged for Kaity and the girls to travel to her native Kansas City – the couple met back when Teal was playing for Sporting KC – so they could be with her extended family.

“Going through quarantine, every family is going through something right now where it's really difficult, especially that age,” he said, explaining how the coronavirus shutdowns impacted Sienna’s social and educational development and made sharing a safe space in KC with grandparents and a cousin or two the best option.

“She was going to this thing called kids academy for the longest time, interacting with kids every day, and then going from that to just interacting with the parents, not really getting those social cues and understanding, playing with other kids and sharing, it's a little bit difficult.”

As solutions started to fall into place, Bunbury, who last week signed a multi-year contract extension with the Revs, could focus on the unprecedented “bubble” environment.

“Everybody kind of handles this differently,” he said. “My personal viewpoint is that once you're down here, I feel safe, there's not a concern of safety too much. I think the biggest thing for me is just being away from my family, my wife, my two girls. That's pretty tough but I know that they're back home with their family and so it makes it a little bit easier.

“There's a lot of downtime, so I think this is a good time to for everybody, each individual, to use this time to grow, whether it's spiritually, whether it's just taking the time that you need to meditate, get in order, take online classes, something like that,” said Bunbury, who himself has gathered for bible study sessions with teammates. “It's definitely a different experience. I'm not saying it's the easiest thing ever, but it really is what you make of it.”

Now 30, he’s learned that the collective approach to this kind of situation can be hugely influential on what happens on the pitch.

“You're not used to this environment, but it's how you respond to it, how you react to it, how you stay positive, how you make sure there's not a lot of grumbling among your group, because as soon as it starts it's going to spread like wildfire,” said Bunbury. “I'm really taking it upon myself, and some of the other guys, and just make sure we're staying positive, that we're pumping each other up.”

It helps when results are going well. The Revs are undefeated at MIB and after a second-place finish in Group C, will face the Philadelphia Union in the Round of 16 on Saturday (10:30 pm ET | ESPN2, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN in Canada). New England’s defense has been one of the stingiest at the tourney, though by their own admission finishing has been an issue. Influential playmaker Carles Gil also appears to be sidelined by a foot injury for the foreseeable future.

That may provide an opportunity for Bunbury – who came off the bench in the Revs’ first two matches before starting against Toronto FC – to step up. He’s bullish on the squad Bruce Arena is building and compares the vibe to the Revolution side that reached the 2014 MLS Cup final.

GOAL: Teal Bunbury scores on a sweet volley to open the scoring in Montreal

“It’s the mood in the locker room, it's the guys, that there’s no egos. Everyone's mixing together, wanting to know how each other is doing. A lot of banter in the locker room, which is important. So the chemistry is there with this group,” he said.

That coincides with rising fortunes around the club in general, with Revs ownership cranking up their investment via of a state-of-the-art new training facility, three high-grade Designated Players in the form of Gil, Gustavo Bou and Adam Buksa, and a renewed push for a soccer-specific stadium in or around Boston’s urban core.

“I'm very optimistic about this club, this organization. I’m very grateful to be a part of it for this long. I think they are being very ambitious,” said Bunbury, reeling off a laundry list of examples. “Right now the buzz is there and I think that us as players, we sense that, we feel that. That's kind of another motivating factor, that ‘Hey, we’re on the verge of something big here,’ so we want to make sure that we're putting that work in, and trying to reciprocate that love."