FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Teal Bunbury doesn’t mince words when he says that his true position is center forward. But that mindset hasn’t kept him from making an impact out on the wing.
Bunbury, who was originally acquired to fill the void up top left by Juan Agudelo’s departure, has become one of the Revolution’s most valuable attacking assets this season. And on Sunday, he proved his value once again.
After assisting on Lee Nguyen’s opening goal in the 43rd minute, and finding the back of the net himself in the 77th minute, the striker at heart hinted that he may have found a new home in the midfield.
“It’s a different role, different mindset and I feel that I’ve come a long way,” Bunbury said after the Revolution’s 3-1 win over the Crew. “There are always things I’m learning and asking questions about, but I’m feeling very comfortable out there.”
For proof of how far Bunbury’s come along since the early-season switch from center forward to winger, fire up the game film from the first half of Sunday’s contest.
After putting Bunbury out on the right to start the match, Revolution coach Jay Heaps asked him to switch sides with Kelyn Rowe near the half-hour mark. It was a move made with hopes of exploiting an increasingly cavalier Crew attack.
“He’s been great all year in terms of the positional change, and then we pushed him to the other side, so his soccer sense was really good tonight,” Heaps said. “He’s really fast, and he can make the play when he gets there, so that’s what we love about him.”
Just as he’s done all season, Bunbury unselfishly accepted the assignment, and quickly made a smooth transition to the left by running at attack-minded fullback Eric Gehrig. Not long after, those runs paid off when he set up Nguyen for the opening salvo.
But Bunbury’s persistence on the assist was something to behold. He initially tried to find Charlie Davies in the box, but the pass was punched away by Michael Parkhurst. Bunbury quickly re-gathered it, and patiently examined his options. He saw Nguyen near the top edge of the area, and chipped it ahead before his teammate slammed it through.
“I was sitting there, and I thought for sure I was going to be under a little bit more pressure,” Bunbury said. “But, Lee had a great finish. Charlie made a great run as well to draw a defender, and that was an important goal for us.”
Nguyen’s strike allowed the Revolution to march into halftime with the lead and a 5-2 aggregate goal advantage, which all but nailed the Crew’s coffin shut. But even with the series essentially in hand, Bunbury continued to work.
In the 48th minute, he made another run -- this time toward the heart of the Columbus defense -- and ripped a pass from Davies wide of frame. It was a tough miss to stomach with Steve Clark essentially helpless on the play, but Bunbury found redemption in the 77th minute.
On a well-placed Daigo Kobayashi pass, Bunbury’s finishing didn’t betray him the second time around. He got a good look at goal, and blasted his shot over the reach of Clark to cap the Revolution’s scoring efforts.
“I saw Daigo get on the ball,” Bunbury said. “He’s one of the best in the league when he’s facing forward, and can slip balls in behind. I wanted to make a run in, and just wanted to hit it hard and near post and it was fortunate.”
It was also a richly-deserved reward for the team-first mentality Bunbury has embraced this season. He may still have visions of returning to his striker’s spot at some point in the future. But for now, his primary concern is doing whatever he can -- and wherever he can -- to steer his team to postseason success.
“I feel like as a team we’ve had a tremendous year,” Bunbury said. “Now that it’s the playoffs, a quote I always say is, ‘Big time players show up for big time games.’ And I feel like every game so far, everybody has played a huge role.”