Thursday, November 11, 2010

Teal Bunbury opts to play for the USMNT

With today's news that Teal Bunbury has accepted an invitation from Bob Bradley to play for the USMNT against South Africa next week it looks like another young player has turned his back on playing for Canada. Bunbury is quoted on the Kansas City Wizards website as saying "It’s a wonderful opportunity, and its great to get this reward after the hard work that I put in this year," and “I’m honored and blessed that I will have the chance to showcase myself as a player to Coach Bradley.”

It will be difficult for some people to come to terms with this defection emotionally given his father is a near legendary figure in Canadian soccer and older generations of Canadian soccer fans still remember his exploits for the Hamilton Steelers, Toronto Blizzard and Montreal Supra in the original CSL and his stellar performances for the national team where he linked up so well with players like Radzinski and Peschisolido as a target man striker back when a long ball 4-4-2 was very much the order of the day tactically. The thing to bear in mind, however, is that his son is probably too young to have vivid recollections of any of that and has lived in the United States since he was ten years old no doubt doing the pledge allegiance to the flag thing children do there every morning at school.

This doesn't look like the sensible move for Teal Bunbury from a career standpoint. Competition for a place on the United States team is likely to be very fierce in the years ahead given the larger population and significantly higher FIFA ranking. If truth be told is he even assured of getting a regular game for Canada in future? With players like Simeon Jackson, Marcus Haber (recent injury notwithstanding) and potentially David Hoilett around that's far from a sure thing, in my opinion. When viewed from that sort of standpoint this starts to look like a move that was based on where his feeling of national allegiance truly lies and if that is the case his decision should be respected and the CMNT and its fanbase should focus on the players who actually want to play for the national team on that basis.

Edit: it turns out that Teal Bunbury's prime motivation was to be able to play in the World Cup finals: What one factor tipped you over the edge to the US side instead of the Canadian side?
Bunbury: The biggest thing for me is I want to play in a World Cup, bottom line. Every player in the world ultimately wants to play in a World Cup, and the way it’s looking the US has the better chance of making it to the World Cup, to be honest. That’s what really stuck in my mind every time I would contemplate it and that’s ultimately what swayed me.

Have to say that I think the kid has an inflated sense of his place within the pecking order of the game (does he not realize that the USMNT hands out caps to vast numbers of players in friendlie games who never get anywhere near the final 23 selected to go the World Cup finals?) and may have blown the only opportunity he will ever realistically have to fulfill that goal, which is to play for the land of his birth and help the CMNT qualify for the first time since 1986. Even then it's no sure thing he would actually be selected for reasons explained above.

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