TUCSON, Ariz. – Ask New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps to list the qualities he admires in newly-acquired forward Teal Bunbury and be prepared to get comfortable, because you’re probably going to be there a while.
“What I really like about him is that he has all the qualities. He’s very strong, he’s technical, but he’s also fast, so he can also stretch defenses,” Heaps said of the 23-year-old striker, acquired from Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday morning. “Teal coming here, for me and our staff, it’s something that we feel is a strong, strong piece to what we’re trying to do.”
After flying cross country from Sporting KC’s camp in Orlando, Fla., to the Revolution’s camp in Tucson, Ariz., on Wednesday night, Bunbury joined his new teammates on the training field Thursday morning. Eight months removed from a return from ACL surgery, he’s declared himself 100 percent fit.
That’s music to the ears of the Revolution, which will be hoping Bunbury can regain the form which saw him notch 19 goals in his first two-and-a-half seasons in Kansas City and made him a regular call-up to the U.S. National Team. If he does, it would go a long way in helping the Revs replace the production of another young American forward, Juan Agudelo.
While Heaps stopped short of calling Bunbury a like-for-like replacement for Agudelo, the similarity in qualities is not lost on the Revolution’s technical staff as they search for someone to play the target role in their free-flowing system.
“We look for a certain type of forward,” said Heaps. “I thought it all came together last year when we had that in Juan. I think Teal has very similar attributes to Juan. He’s a little bit different, but in terms of understanding what we want to do tactically, Teal definitely gets that.”
The Revolution’s interest in Bunbury didn’t begin with the departure of Agudelo – Heaps said the Canadian-born striker had been on his radar for some time – but it certainly accelerated the move. Now Bunbury has two weeks to get himself acclimated ahead of the March 8 season opener in Houston.
It’s a prospect which has Bunbury excited as he joins one of the most dynamic young attacks in MLS.
“I look at Teal and he’s played four years (in MLS), so he understands the league really well, but he’s young,” said Heaps. “When he’s excited and he knows he’s going to be able to link up with our core guys – guys like Lee (Nguyen) and Kelyn (Rowe), and really be someone who plays off them well – that’s what we’re looking for.”