TUCSON, Ariz. – Teal Bunbury only played 45 minutes in his preseason debut with the New England Revolution on Saturday night, but that was all the 23-year-old forward needed to provide a clear picture of just how well he may fit into the club’s free-flowing system.
Bunbury showed strength and poise in the target role, linking the attack through clever combination with Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and Patrick Mullins. Despite only training with his new teammates for two days before taking the field on Saturday, there appeared to be an understanding between the newly-acquired forward and the rest of the group.
That understanding was most evident in the 20th minute, when Bunbury received a pass from Fagundez and calmly finished to the back post, giving the Revs a 2-0 lead in what was eventually a 3-2 loss.
“It felt unbelievable,” Bunbury said after the game. “I was so, so excited to be on the field. The past couple days of training have been a lot of fun with the guys, but to be able to get in a preseason game and kind of get the feel for how they really play, it’s great.”
Bunbury said his 45-minute stint against Chivas USA was his best lesson yet on how the Revolution’s system works, adding that chemistry with his teammates continues to build every minute he’s on the field. And even after just one half of soccer, he’s already enjoying the company of his new attacking corps.
“I’m really loving playing with all those guys,” Bunbury said. “Diego likes to check inside and I can play off of him. Same with Lee Nguyen and Kelyn, as well. It’s going to be a fun partnership and it’s just really exciting.”
It’ll be hard for head coach Jay Heaps not to be excited, as well, after getting his first glimpse of Bunbury in a Revolution uniform. Heaps was similarly pleased with the way Bunbury linked with the rest of the attackers, while he also lauded the former Sporting Kansas City striker’s knowledge of the game plan.
“We saw, I think, someone who understands what we’re trying to do,” said Heaps. “He was very good pressuring the ball, he was excellent in connection with our other guys and he scored a great goal. So he had a pretty good 45 minutes.”
Bunbury will have enjoyed getting on the score sheet, particularly after going without a goal in 12 appearances last season following his return from ACL surgery. But while he knows goals will be a major part of what he’s asked to do, at this point, he’s more excited about simply proving himself to his new teammates.
“It feels great,” Bunbury said of the goal. “But most importantly it feels good that I’m gaining confidence with the guys. That’s the biggest thing. Coming to a new team, you want to make sure that you’re clicking and you want to make sure that you’re working hard for them. It’s not all about you; it’s learning to get on the same page.”