Forward – Sporting Kansas City
Copywriter T. Scharfenberg, Photographer Heidi Hammer
Calm & Chaos
Cool and calm, Teal Bunbury is ready to roll with whatever comes his way. In fact, it's hard to imagine him getting fierce on the field. Don't let him fool you though — this guy can hit the back of the net with the best of them.
Off The Field
Level: No Sweat
Teal believes what makes him unique is that he hasn't lost any love for the game, even though it's now a job. He told us, "Everyone has work ethic in this league, but for me, I just love having fun and playing the sport. I'm very blessed to be able to play it. Every training session, I want to give it my all but also remember that life is short. I want to have fun." For Teal, part of keeping the game fun is not letting outside pressure get to him. "I really try not to look at the public comments or social media. People have opinions, so it's just letting it go in one ear and out the other. You know what you're capable of doing, so you work on that and don't let the outside distractions affect you as a player."
Level: Feeling Focused
Coming off an ACL injury, a lot of athletes would find it difficult to stay on track and positive. But frustration isn't in Teal's vocabulary. He's nothing but grateful for the opportunity to play and is humble enough to credit, not himself, but the rest of his behind-the-scenes team. "After long-term injuries, staying focused is huge. A lot of times, you can lose focus, but my advice would be to find things and family members and friends who can really keep your spirits high. Just keep pushing, be strong, and know that it's only temporary. At the end of it, you're going to come back stronger than you were before." KC fans are now breathing a sigh of relief. Teal's mindset paid off and he's back on the field now, going at full speed.
Level: Steady Incline
Right before a game is when most athletes get serious, but what fun is that? Teal likes to keep it light so his mind is free and clear for game time. By now, we wonder if he'll ever get hyped up, but he's got a very specific strategy. "How do I prepare to win? I'm really laid back. I listen to my music on the drive to the stadium. I love gospel, I love R&B, I love the new pop – whatever will ease my mind. In the locker room, I like to joke around with the guys. I'm just being myself and trying to have fun because we're privileged to play soccer as a job. Playing a sport, entertaining fans… it should be fun and that's what I try to do."
An hour before game time, he'll flip from chilling out to killing it on the field. He'll grab half an energy bar and silently switch the mentality.
Level: Serious Striking
When he steps on the field, there's a job to do, no questions asked. "I try to utilize my speed as one of my big attributes so I try to get in behind defenders, stretch the defense, and try to finish. I try to open up space for the players around me with my movement, which I would say is my biggest asset. I'm a bigger guy so I should be able to hold the ball up well." Going into his fourth season, Teal will definitely feel the pressure of expectations. But we're pretty sure he'll live up to the hype by going all-out for the entire 90 minutes.
Supporting him on the field are the bright and bold adidas Predator LZ cleats. "I love the new Lethal Zones, especially the way you can pass. It's got a lot of cushion along the foot so when you're trying to be accurate with your passes, it's very easy to do that. Me being more of a powerful forward, I like to shoot. The Predator gives me a better feel on the ball at the top when I'm trying to shoot with my laces. It helps me with my accuracy, zeroing in, and getting it on target."
Level: All Downhill from Here
Post game is the time for Teal to unwind. Despite his exhaustion, there's one person who knows the game isn't quite over. Lovingly named The Dissector by Teal and his friends, Teal's dad is a huge influencer on his play. "His influence has been huge ever since I was young and still today. We'll talk once or twice a week leading up to a game, he'll watch every game, and he'll review the game. After every game he'll call me and he'll want to talk for hours, but after games I'm tired. Some games I might not play the best and I don't really want to hear what he has to say, but it's all love and him trying to make me better. It's an unbelievable feeling to know that someone who loves you that much is just trying to help you."
After a mini-coaching session with Dad, Teal heads home to do what he says is "being a big nerd." He'll read, play video games, or watch his favorite TV shows, one of which is Dragonball Z. Don't tell him we told you, but Teal's dog, Goku, is named from that show.
In the long term, Teal is looking to follow his personal and team goals: being a role model to young athletes – both as a soccer player and as a man, defending the US Open Cup title, looking toward an MLS Cup as the ultimate win, and of course, entertaining the fans of KC.
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