Over the past couple weeks, speculation has run rampant over what nation Kansas City Wizards forward Teal Bunbury would represent once he pledged his national team future.
Last week Bunbury went on Canadian football radio show "Call It Football" and when asked about his future, wavered for the first time about which country he would play for. He has said all along that he would play for Canada, the formal national team of his father Alex, and the country for which he made a pair of U-20 appearances in 2008 and 2009. But, the comments from Bunbury shook up our neighbors to the north so much so that Duane Rollins of The 24th Minute went as far as to say, "There is no way in hell that Canada is going to be better for his career than the United States" when voicing his opinion that Bunbury was set to spurn Canada for the United States.
In August, Bunbury also turned down a senior team call up by Canada for a pair of September friendlies against Peru and Honduras. He maintained the stance that he was solely focused on his rookie season in MLS in 2010, and that he would not be making any decisions about his international career at that time. So, with such time going by and Teal refusing to make a commitment one way or another, it's no wonder that supporters of the Canucks have grown worrisome that they may lose out on Bunbury's services.
Well, those fans may just have been given another jolt of fear, because as was predicted here first last night, Bunbury has been called up by US national team coach Bob Bradley into his squad for the November 17th friendly against South Africa. And, unlike when he was last called up by Canada, Bunbury isn't declining this one.
Timing and a combination of a few different things in play go into making this call up possible for Teal. First of all, with it being a mid-week friendly and no break in the major European leagues either weekend before or after the game, that knocks out a few options for Bradley's squad. Also, players who could have very well been brought in, like Edson Buddle, Conor Casey and Chris Wondolowski, not being available because their club teams are still alive in the MLS playoffs crosses them off the list.
Couple that with what some think Bradley is using as an opportunity to bring in a lot of fresh (and young) faces this time around, and it really is the perfect storm for Teal to move to the forefront of the US forward options.
The undeniable truth is that America's talent pool at the forward position is extremely shallow. What bringing in incumbent Jozy Altidore and the MLS talents of Bunbury and Juan Agudelo of New York Red Bulls will do is not only expand the reaches of that talent pool by two more bodies, but do so with two very young and raw talents who, just like Altidore, have so much room for development
While Altidore does play for Villareal in Spain's top division, outside of Copa del Rey competition, he's just not getting many chances to play for the club, and until he does, it's a foregone conclusion he will be in each and every one of Bradley's US squads, no matter the timing, if for no other reason than to get time on the field anywhere that he can. Ever since he made his senior national team debut as an 18 year old, in South Africa by the way, Altidore has rarely been given the opportunity to play alongside a true, out and out forward that could potentially be around the next dozen or so years with him.
Including youngsters like Bunbury and Agudelo could not only be good for them, but could go a long way to rejuvenating Altidore, and give a glimpse to US fans of what they hope could be a very skilled strike trio in the 2014/18 World Cups.
Teal is now the first Wizards player called into the senior US team since January 2010, when current Wizard Jimmy Conrad played for the US against Honduaras. If Teal ultimately decides to play for the US, we could have a US men's national team regular on our hands in a couple years.
What this call up says for who he ultimately suits up for on the international level, no one other than Teal can really know for sure. Seeing as he is only being called in for a friendly, accepting the call up, being in camp, or even making an appearance in the game would not cap tie Bunbury to the US.
What it will do, though, is give Bradley a chance to meet Teal, talk with him and allow him to work with him during training leading up to the game itself. Such contact could prove invaluable for the US's case of permanently landing Bunbury. Or, it could be that Bradley and Bunbury's personalities and/or visions don't mesh well with one another and Teal comes to realization that he should pledge to Canada. Only time will tell, so I'm not going to harp on that.
The fact is that this will be a great experience for Teal, and will only help his development, and ultimately his career with the Wizards.