Teal Bunbury proud to follow in dad's footsteps
Former national team standout Alex Bunbury a major influence in young star's life
The past month has been absolutely crazy for soccer star Teal Bunbury.
His head has been spinning from a flurry of activity, it's a wonder that he hasn't suffered some sort of mental breakdown.
In the past four weeks, the Canadian striker has:
- Played in the finals of the NCAA soccer championship with the University of Akron (the top-tanked Zips lost in a penalty shootout to No. 2 Virginia).
- Won the prestigious MAC Hermann Trophy, U.S. college soccer's version of the Heisman Trophy.
- Was selected fourth overall by the Kansas City Wizards in the 2010 Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
Through it all, Bunbury, who turns 20 next month, has leaned on his father, former Canadian national team striker Alex Bunbury, for guidance and support, including in his recent decision to quit school as a sophomore in order to begin his soccer career.
Canada vs. United States
Although born in Hamilton, Ont., Teal Bunbury is an American citizen and has lived a significant portion of his life in Minnesota, which means he's eligible to play for either the Canadian or U.S. national team.
Bunbury has already appeared for Canada at the youth level, but has yet to make his debut for the senior side, although Canadian national team coach Stephen Hart recently told reporters he will closely monitor Bunbury's progress.
At the same time, U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley is also keeping the youngster on his radar, which leads to the question: To which country does Bunbury plan to pledge his international allegiance?
Bunbury leaves no doubt about his intentions.
"I was born in Canada and I would love to play for the country I was born in. I think it would be an honour," Bunbury said.
"For me, I was born in Canada, I have a lot of family members there, and it would feel wrong for me to play for the U.S. I feel a connection with Canada."
"I felt it was the right time for me to go pro … I always wanted to make that next step to the professional level and I think that I am ready," Bunbury told CBCSports.ca
"Throughout the season, I talked about it with my dad. … He had a big influence on whether I would go or not. He thought I was ready, too."
The young Bunbury has long relied on the sage advice of his father, who made 64 international appearances for Canada between 1986 and 1997. Aside from being a star for his country, Alex Bunbury was also one of the few Canadian players to have etched out a successful playing career in Europe.
Inducted into Canada's Soccer Hall of Fame in 2006, Bunbury enjoyed a successful stint with Maritimo (from 1993 to 1999), where he became the club's all-time leading scorer in the Portuguese first division, before retiring in 2000 after two seasons with the Kansas City Wizards.
Teal said his father has been a "huge influence" on his life, both personally and in terms of his development as a player.
"He used to be my coach for a lot of years. He's always pushed me really hard. At the time, I didn't like that, so I would come home and complain to my mom about it, and she would always have my back," Bunbury admitted.
"But he pushed me hard and it's gotten me to where I am today. I've always looked up to him ever since he was playing. I always wanted to do what he did."
As a young boy growing up in Portugal, Teal spent a lot of his time watching his dad from the sidelines during games and training sessions, and inside Martimo's locker-room where he caught a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the beautiful game. It was in Portugal that he caught the soccer bug and first wanted to emulate his dad.
"That's when I decided what I wanted to do with my life," Bunbury said.
As he enters this new phase of his life, Bunbury understands he will have his work cut out and knows that he has to improve his game, namely being more clinical when it comes to finishing off scoring chances.
"My main thing is becoming more lethal, more of a killer instinct in front of goal. I did score quite a few goals at Akron, but I feel I could be more lethal in that regard," Bunbury admitted.
Being drafted by his father's old club, the Wizards, also holds special meaning for Teal.
"It's really an amazing thing, the first father-son combo to play in MLS. It's amazing to me," Bunbury said.