The young forward told Goal.com that he expects to pick up his scoring tally and help Sporting KC win an MLS Cup this season, while looking toward a European future.Entering his third season, Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury has grand expectations as he eyes 17 goals and an MLS championship.
Bunbury, coming off a pair of inconsistent seasons, feels he needs to pick up his pace in a league that lacks big-time scorers. His performance this year will be judged on how many times he find the nets after tallying just 15 goals in two years.
"As a striker, you are expected to score," Bunbury told Goal.com.
Sporting KC is coming off a fantastic regular season in which the club finished in first place with 13 wins. But the team will begin the 2012 season without Omar Bravo, who left KC for Mexican club Cruz Azul during the offseason after scoring nine goals in 27 games.
Along with strike partner CJ Sapong, Bunbury will be asked to carry the scoring load. The pair combined for only 14 league goals last season and the 21-year-old Bunbury thinks he can increase that number on his own. It's all about consistency.
"Consistency comes from the mental side of the game, being comfortable out there in certain situations" Bunbury said. "I expect to score 17 goals this season."
If Bunbury can reach his goal, Sporting KC will have a better chance of reaching the MLS Cup. Last season, the team fell 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference final. Houston went on to lose to the LA Galaxy in the championship match.
"Considering the run we had last season, I believe we can win the title this year," Bunbury said.
Over the past two seasons, Bunbury has shown flashes of his potential, but some observers have questioned whether or not he and Sapong, last year's MLS Rookie of the Year, can play together up top. Both are tall, physical athletes who rely on their size and speed to score.
"I like to make slashing runs and find open spaces where as CJ likes to hold up the ball like a target man and win headers," he said.
One other factor that should help Bunbury is Kansas City's significant upgrades in midfield. The team added former U.S. international winger Bobby Convey from the San Jose Earthquakes and Paulo Nagamura from Chivas USA. Along with rising playmaker Graham Zusi, Bunbury should have plenty of opportunities to score.
"There are going to be a lot of chances created with this midfield," Bunbury said.
If Bunbury is able to reach his lofty targets this season, there is no reason why the spotlight on him shouldn't continue to grow. The youngster was recently given an opportunity to prove himself on the international stage as Jurgen Klinsmann called him in for the U.S. men's national team's January training camp.
Bunbury had solid showings in friendlies against Venezuela and Panama. Even though he admits he can improve on a few things, Bunbury enjoyed being able to display what he can bring to the Stars and Stripes. He also stated that he enjoyed having a chance to learn under Klinsmann, a former world-class striker who scored 232 goal and has won on the highest level.
"I've seen videos of some of his performances and it does inspire you as a young striker to learn from him," he said.
Improvement on the field could also mean a major move abroad in his future. Almost two years ago, Bunbury went on trial with Premiership side Stoke City and he says that he is aware of teams scouting him.
"There are always people like that [scouts] at games in [MLS] observing things," Bunbury said.
Bunbury would love the chance to prove his skills among the best in the world, but he will need to prove himself in MLS first. A championship would help.
"It's always been my dream to play out in Europe," said Bunbury. "All I can do now is focus on winning a championship for Sporting KC. If the right opportunity comes after that, I'll definitely consider it."