FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A seemingly minor tactical shift may have provided the spark Teal Bunbury needed to break through for his first goal in a New England Revolution jersey this past weekend.
After starting the first seven games of the season as the target man in the Revolution’s three-pronged frontline, Bunbury was moved wide right for Saturday night’s meeting with Sporting Kansas City. The result was three high-quality scoring chances for the young forward, including the game-winning goal.
Revs head coach Jay Heaps said the shift was made in part to give Bunbury a different look, but also to create a spot in the lineup for Jerry Bengtson, who’s more suited to play the target role than out wide.
“Teal, he lines up well out there,” said Heaps. “He has a lot of pace and he shows that he can seal out that back door. A lot of his chances came because he’s got that real forward mentality, so when he’s on the wing and the ball gets wide on the far side – on the left back side – Teal likes to get in the box.”
Twice on Saturday night Bunbury latched onto deep Chris Tierney crosses at the back post; in the 21st minute he had a goal-bound effort blocked by Matt Besler, and in the 32nd minute he forced Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg into a fingertip save.
“He cleaned up that back post,” said Heaps. “There’s nothing worse (as a defender) than having a 6-foot-2 guy on the left back. If you’re a left back, you’re thinking, ‘Where’s this guy coming from?’ It’s difficult to defend.”
It wasn’t Bunbury’s first taste of playing on the wing in New England’s free-flowing system – on a few occasions he’d shifted out wide as part of second-half tactical adjustments – but it was his first 90-minute shift at the position and he admitted there was a bit of an adjustment period.
“The positions are different, definitely,” Bunbury said. “When you’re out wide, it’s a lot more getting the ball facing the defenders. You can get runs in behind and it’s more of just trying to be a nuisance of their fullbacks. It’s also a lot more defensively, tracking back and making sure you’re in the right positions.
“It’s definitely a different position for me, but I enjoyed it.”