FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Since being acquired by the New England Revolution two weeks ago, Teal Bunbury has often been referred to as a direct replacement for the departed Juan Agudelo. In some ways, that’s an accurate assessment.
Bunbury is expected to occupy the target striker position which Agudelo held during his brief stint in New England. The two players provide similar skill-sets with regards to size, strength and ability to work within the Revolution’s system. Bunbury will even wear Agudelo’s vacated number 10 jersey.
But head coach Jay Heaps has made one thing clear ahead of Saturday night’s season opener against the Houston Dynamo: the Revs are not asking Teal Bunbury to be Juan Agudelo.
“It’s not one guy replacing another,” Heaps said. “Positionally they’ll be in the same spot, but they’re different players. They’re not the same player and we knew that going in. Each player, for me, has a little different strength.”
Heaps highlighted Bunbury’s holdup ability, finishing skills and pace, while noting Agudelo’s primary strengths as his foot skills and ability to create something from nothing. While there are certain overlaps in terms of style, it’s not quite a like-for-like swap.
What Heaps does believe Bunbury can replicate, however, is how Agudelo worked within the Revolution’s system as the fulcrum of the attack. While most will point to Bunbury’s two preseason goals as a sign that he’s the right fit in New England, it was everything beyond the goals which impressed the coaching staff.
“We fit well with how he plays and he fits well with what we’re trying to do,” said Heaps. “Away from scoring two goals in preseason – two great goals – for me, it was what he did for us tactically. It was what he did for our midfield and how he pressured, where he pressured and how he helped as an outlet ball for our attacking midfielders.”
Bunbury could make his Revolution debut this weekend at BBVA Compass Stadium, the same venue where Agudelo scored a goal in his New England debut last May. And should Bunbury also score on his debut, it’ll be yet another way in which he can be linked to his predecessor.
But as the season progresses, Bunbury will undoubtedly form his own identity among Revolution fans, something the 24-year-old striker has made it clear he’s eager to do.
“Each player is different. I think Teal understands that,” said Heaps. “We’re not asking him to be anyone but himself. I think he’s hungry to be Teal Bunbury and I think he’s going to make an impact this year.”