Teal Bunbury at centre of Canada-U.S. CONCACAF clash
Olympic qualifying match to be played Saturday
Teal Bunbury won't be thinking about family history when Canada plays the United States on Saturday at the CONCACAF men's Olympic qualifying tournament.
The game could mark the first time that Teal Bunbury, the son of Canadian Hall of Famer Alex Bunbury, plays against Canada after choosing to play for the U.S. instead in 2010.
Before the decision, Bunbury had seen limited action for Canada at both the under-17 and under-20 levels.
"It is just another game for me," said Bunbury prior to his team's training session on Friday. "I know there are a lot of people getting too hyped up with the playing against Canada. I know a few of their players, I know the coach so I have all the respect in the world for them."
A few of those players Bunbury would know are fellow forwards Marcus Haber and Randy Edwini-Bonsu. During Bunbury's brief time in the Canadian youth setup, those players were the preferred options in the Canadian attack with Bunbury used largely as a substitute.
Haber and Edwini-Bonsu both saw action in Canada's 0-0 draw that started the competition while Bunbury came on as a second half substitute.
Though born in Hamilton, Ont., Bunbury has spent most of his life in the U.S., which is his mother's homeland. He attended both high school and university in the country. He was a standout player at the University of Akron before being drafted by Kansas City of Major League Soccer, the same team his father played for.
Alex Bunbury played for the Canadian national team for more than a decade, scoring 16 goals in 66 appearances. He was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in 2006.
"He's excited for it," said Teal Bunbury. "Obviously he's got my back and he's going to be rooting for the U.S. and that's how it goes."
Since choosing the United States over Canada, Bunbury has only played in Canada a handful of times with Kansas City. When Kansas City played in Vancouver in April of last season, Whitecaps fans were less than hospitable to him. Rather than letting it bother him, Bunbury feeds off it — he scored twice as the teams played to a 3-3 draw.
Opting to play elsewhere
"It's been fun. I try to go into every game just worrying about the things that I can control. I can't control the fans, the atmosphere I'm playing in," he said. "I don't know [how long] it's going to go on for. It could be for the rest of my career but I try to take it one game at a time."
Bunbury is the latest in a list of players from Canada who have opted to play elsewhere. He joins the likes of Owen Hargreaves and Asmir Begovic who have played for national teams other than Canada.
But unlike Hargreaves, who was rather upfront with his desire to play for England, Bunbury played a handful of games at the youth level for Canada and even said in an interview once that it would feel "wrong" to play for the United States.
"It feels right most definitely," said Bunbury when asked if he feels he made the right decision.
"It was a tough decision. It wasn't easy. A lot of things were going through my mind but I had my family there to really help me through it and ultimately I went with what I felt was best for me."
The Americans opened with an easy 6-0 win over Cuba in the game that followed the Canada-El Salvador game. The top two teams in this group advance to the tournament semifinals where they will play for one of two spots available to the CONCACAF region for the upcoming London Olympics.