Teal Bunbury at New York Red Bulls (2019 primary, captain)
Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

Bunbury conjures up a “bit of brilliance” with dramatic brace in Open Cup victory

MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The magic of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup was alive and well on Tuesday night in Montclair, N.J., where Teal Bunbury conjured up a bit of wizardry in the New England Revolution’s dramatic 3-2 extra-time win over the New York Red Bulls.

With the Revs trailing 2-1 in the late stages, Bunbury bagged an 85th-minute equalizer just to force extra time, then one-upped himself by scoring the game winner in the 109th minute with a remarkable individual effort, chipping a sublime shot between two defenders and into the far upper corner.

Oh, and the Revs were playing with 10 men at the time, left shorthanded by Luis Caicedo’s red card deep into stoppage time of the original 90 minutes.

“That was a great result for our team,” said Bruce Arena, who has now won his first two games as Revolution head coach, both on the road. “Playing the last 30 minutes with 10 players is never easy, and then to get a goal on top of it – just a fantastic goal by Teal. Just a great team effort tonight.

“If we walked away tonight as losers, I would’ve been really proud of them, because I think the performance from the opening minute to the end was outstanding, and I think we deserved to win the game.”

Amongst a bevy of strong performances, Bunbury’s stood out, and not just for his two goals – both spectacular – but also for his overall effort throughout the 120 minutes. And in typical Teal Bunbury fashion, he shifted the postgame talk from his performance to that of the entire team.

“Obviously I love scoring. I love working for my team. I love winning. Everybody loves winning,” said Bunbury. “I’m just really proud of the guys. When I’m put in those positions – guys playing great balls, and I’m one-on-one with a defender or the ‘keeper – I’ve got to keep up my end of the bargain and finish those chances.

“I’m happy, obviously, with the goals, but I’m even happier with the performance that everybody put in.”

It’s that type of team-first mentality that earned Bunbury the captaincy on Tuesday night, and while it may have been something new to see him wearing the armband, goalkeeper Matt Turner – whose second-half penalty save to keep it a 2-1 game turned the tides – said Bunbury has always been a leader.

“Maybe he hasn’t had the armband on all the time, but I don’t think that really matters, in a way,” said Turner. “I think people see everybody as a little bit of a leader, and Teal went out there tonight, and when things were looking bleak in the [85th] minute, he was able to pick us up with a little bit of brilliance, and then again in the second half of stoppage time.

“He was immense. You saw how hard the guy works for 120 minutes. He left it all out on the field tonight.”

Those leadership qualities have been on display in recent weeks as the Revs have gone through a transition period with massive managerial change, and Arena took notice, leading to the decision to hand Bunbury the armband against the Red Bulls.

“He’s a very good player and a great individual,” Arena said of Bunbury. “When you take over a team and the situation our team is in, you need people with character, and he is certainly that kind of person. He’s been in large part responsible for the team regrouping and trying to be more competitive and a little bit more successful, so I’m real pleased with the two weeks I’ve had with this team.”

Bunbury – who hadn’t scored through the season’s first 15 games – now has three goals in Arena’s first two games in charge, including the game winners in both. Historically a confidence player, he’s prone to goal-scoring streaks, and he’s hoping “some floodgates open” based on recent form.

But perhaps more so than his goals, Bunbury was proud to serve as captain on Tuesday night, particularly as he helped coax a gut-check performance out of the group, who’ll discover their next opponent (and venue) in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 via draw on Thursday morning.

“It meant a lot,” Bunbury said of wearing the armband. “I think coming from the coaching staff, putting that responsibility on myself, I try to lead by example. Sometimes I can be vocal, as well. I’m all about positivity, but I also want to try to get the best out of everybody.

“It’s an honor to be able to be a captain and kind of represent these guys, because they’re a great group of guys. Moving on in the Open Cup now, and that’s going to be our focus is the next game.”