FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Dual nationality is an ongoing theme for the US men’s national team, and reigning MLS Rookie of the Year Tesho Akindele is the most recent player in the crosshairs of two countries vying for his services.
If the Canadian-American striker, who stated recently that he is close to reaching a decision, needs a little advice, he need not look too far.
“You have to do what’s best for you, ultimately,” said New England Revolution forward Teal Bunbury, who went through the very same process back in 2010. “There’s going to be a lot of outside forces, whether it's fans, teammates, coaches, even family that are maybe going to be pulling him in different directions. At the end of the day, it’s your career, and being able to make decisions for yourself is huge.
“It’s not an easy decision. He’s definitely going to have to take time, and that’ll come.”
Both players were born in Canada and moved to the United States at a young age, with Akindele coming over at age 8. Bunbury, who arrived in the US around age 9, had actually left the Great White North at age 2 as his father Alex traveled around the world playing professional soccer.
That was the other complicated piece of the decision-making puzzle for Teal, whose father was a standout for the Canadian men’s national team and still ranks as the program's eighth-most capped player (65) and fourth leading goalscorer (16).
But in the fourth grade, Bunbury landed in Minnesota, his mother’s home state, and found a place to call home.
“It was tough,” Bunbury said of the process. “I was born in Canada, but grew up in the States. My mom’s family is from Minnesota, and that’s really where I was raised. It was tough in the sense of: My dad played for the Canadian national team, and a lot of Canadian fans assumed right off the bat that I would choose Canada.”
During his high school and collegiate years in the US, Bunbury kept ties with his birth country, playing for Canada's U-17 and U-20 teams.
With his star on the rise, he departed the University of Akron, a Hermann Trophy in tow, after two seasons to sign a Generation adidas contract with MLS. He was drafted fourth overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft by the Kansas City Wizards, the same team with whom his father finished a 13-year professional career (father and son pictured above, at right).
After scoring five goals in his rookie season, former USMNT boss Bob Bradley came calling, and in November of 2010, Bunbury debuted for the US against South Africa.
“I felt like my heart laid with the US,” Bunbury told MLSsoccer.com. “I wanted to play in World Cups, and to try to have that opportunity with the US national team, for me, was a better decision for my career.”
He sympathizes with the 23-year-old Akindele (pictured at right) on having to make such a grand decision at a young age. While there is nothing he regrets about his ultimate choice, Bunbury does wish there was one thing he could have done differently.
“Maybe early on, if there was anything I said in media to portray or make it seem like I was going to choose Canada over US or US over Canada, maybe just that would be one thing,” said Bunbury on what he would change about it all. “But for the most part, no [I wouldn’t change anything].”
- Find more Revs news at RevolutionSoccer.net
Bunbury made six appearances for the US from 2010-12 and two more appearances with the US Under-23 squad, but he has not received a callup since, mainly due to injuries suffered while playing in Kansas City.
Now the 25-year-old is showing a much more complete game while sparking the Revs attack along the wings, where he has also showed an ability to excel defensively.
An early-season shoulder injury hardly slowed Bunbury, who has otherwise been in relatively solid health since he joined New England last year. He hopes to soon follow the path of some of his club mates like Juan Agudelo and Lee Nguyen, who have both returned to the US pool after extended stints away.
“It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” Bunbury said of returning to the USMNT. “But I go out there and try to just play every day, and if I ever get that opportunity again, I’m going to make the most of it. I’m happy with the decision I made, and now I live with that.”