June 19, 2011
By Michael Lewis
Unlike father, unlike son
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It's Father's Day and if you're a U.S. National Team observer, you know the story of U.S. National Team coach Bob Bradley and his son, midfielder Michael Bradley.
If there is any karma in the soccer universe, then the younger Bradley will play a vital role -- perhaps score a goal or set one up? -- and help the Americans defeat Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals at RFK Stadium on Sunday.
But the Bradleys are far from the only father-and-son National Team tandem in international soccer.
There are the Bunburys, who have forged a unique story of their own.
Alex Bunbury is a former soccer player who performed for the Canadian National Team.
Then there is his son, Teal Bunbury, a current soccer player -- he wears the uniform of Sporting Kansas
A different National Team?
Sounds like serious stuff.
For Teal Bunbury, the decision was serious stuff, but one that he was comfortable with.
"It was very difficult," Bunbury said in a recent interview. "A lot of things went through my mind. I really had to sit down and talk with my parents and my agent. "You've got to pray about it and think about what's going to be, not where my best interests were but were I felt my heart lied."
And that was with the U.S. National Team.
Before we delve into Bunbury's unique situation a little more, a little background on them.
Alex Bunbury, who turned 44 on Saturday, was born in Guyana before emigrating to Canada. There, he became of the most influential players of his generation, representing his country 65 times (fifth highest cap total in Canadian history) while finding the back of the net on 16 occasions (No. 3 on the country's all-time scoring list). He played with West Ham United (England), CS Maritimo (Portugual) and the Kansas City Wizards (1999-2000). He was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2006.
Teal Bunbury was born in Canada some 21 years ago. He played for the Canadian Under-17 and U-20 National Teams and for the University of Akron. He was selected by the Wizards -- since renamed Sporting Kansas City -- in the fourth round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. He made his international debut, coming on as a halftime substitute for the U.S. in the 1-0 win over South Africa last Nov. 17. He scored his first international goal -- off a penalty kick -- in a 1-1 friendly with Chile at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. in January.
Teal's decision and logic to pick the U.S. came from his recent background, even if he might have more of an opportunity to play for Canada, which hasn't been to a World Cup since 1986. The U.S. has played in the last six with their eyes on 2014 in Brazil.
"I grew up in the states. I went to school in the states," he said. "I felt that was where my allegiance was. I was very grateful for the choice that I made and I hope that Canadian fans will respect that. I have nothing against Team Canada. I wish all the best for Stephen Hart for what he's doing. I just felt that for me and my career, this was going to be the best decision for me."
Not surprisingly, Teal sought out father Alex for perspective.
"He was just there for support," he said. "He didn't want to push me either way. He wanted me to make my own decision. He was there giving me the pros and the cons and things like that. He was very, very respectful for my own decision."
And when Teal made his decision?
"He was really excited. He was happy for me," he said. "He always has my back whenever it is."
On Nov. 17 of last year, Teal wore the red, white and blue for the U.S. with the number 9 on his back.
"It was a huge deal," he said. "Itís always been my dream to play for my National Team. Getting that honor and privilege was great. It felt amazing. It's a a one of a kind feeling that's hard to describe to put it on for the first time. . . . You step onto the field with all of a sudden kind of confidence. You hope people are watching and all the fans at home. The United States is on your side. It's a great feeling. For me, it was truly, truly to be a blessing to be a part of something like that."
Teal will have to wait until the next international date in August, at the earliest to put on the USA jersey again as he wasn't picked for the team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"I'll just keep pushing myself and work hard until the next call up," he said.
He realizes that there still is plenty to work on, such as his heading and his left foot.
"Those are the biggest things," he said.
But nothing could have been bigger than his National Team decision. Teal said he hasn't heard much criticism from Canadian soccer fans. He said he hopes soccer fans "would treat me the same way they did" when he was in Vancouver earlier this season.
"I don't think about it too much," he said. "I just focus on my club."
Someday, Teal Bunbury hopes to say the say thing about his country.