KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Teal Bunbury's season ended in a bittersweet moment for the young American striker. In Sporting Kansas City's first meeting this season against the New York Red Bulls in August, Bunbury bravely hurled himself in front of New York goalkeeper Bill Gaudette. The impact, one, popped the ball up so that Kei Kamara could score, but, two, ended Bunbury's season.
In the collision, the 22-year-old busted up his left knee, tearing the ACL and damaging the LCL. The 6-to-8 month estimated recovery time from surgery ruled Bunbury out of the rest of the 2012 season. If the U.S. international had to suffer an injury, lunging into danger to create a goal was probably the most palatable manner for it to happen, he says.
"It's a cool way, looking back on it," Bunbury told Goal.com on Tuesday. "I wouldn't want to get injured any other way – making a pass or just running off the ball or something. If there's a way to get injured – with style, I guess."
Now with his teammates gearing up for the playoffs, Bunbury is deep in rehab.
"It's going. Every day it's getting better," Bunbury said. "Today's actually a really nice day. Went to the pool – first time in the pool – doing more motions, so it's feeling good. I'm just taking it day by day."
Naturally, lifting weights and going through the grind of rehab at SKC's training center in Swope Park, where he can look outside to see his teammates run around, would get anyone down. That's not to mention trying to watch games like the crucial encounter against the Red Bulls. The goalless draw meant Sporting cannot win the Supporters' Shield.
"I'd by lying to you if I said I was completely happy," Bunbury said. "There's days when you look at the games and you're like, 'Dang, I should be out there.' But it's a bittersweet thing. I love that they're doing well. Obviously, I feel like I'm still part of it. But when people are injured you're not really a part of it."
Bunbury had scored five goals this year and nine last season. Now he's watching on as C.J. Sapong leads the line. Sapong's eight goals have helped SKC to first place in the East, which it could clinch with a point in the last match of the regular season, against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday. Bunbury has channeled his role into emotional support.
"I just got their back on everything," he said.
Not that he's not working just as hard as anyone else. All through the playoffs and offseason, he'll be toiling away, rebuilding his knee and preparing for preseason in 2013.
"Hopefully by the beginning of the season I'll be ready to go," Bunbury said.
Follow ZAC LEE RIGG on or shoot him an email