Is young Teal Bunbury, who is set to become the first son of a former MLS player to play in the league, the cure for the Kansas City Wizards' anemic offense? Quite likely if he continues following the footsteps of his father, Alex, who says Teal is even more of a natural goalscorer.
"Ever since I was young and watching my dad I always wanted to be a professional soccer player -- especially as I got older and I realized how much I loved the game," says Teal Bunbury, who left Akron after his sophomore season.
Alex Bunbury immigrated to Canada from his native Guyana. He scored 16 goals in 64 appearances for the Canadian national team and is in the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame. Teal was born in Canada and played for its youth national teams, but he spent most of his 19 years in Europe and the United States.
Teal first saw his father play when Alex joined England's West Ham, but his first memories are from Portugal, where Alex spent his prime years as a leading scorer for Maritimo. He scored 59 goals in 165 games during his six seasons. Teal was 6 when the family moved to the Madeira Islands. He went to his father's practices and got to hang out in the locker room.
"I remember thinking, 'OK, this is what I want to do,'" said Teal, whom the Wizards picked No. 4 overall in the 2010 SuperDraft.
The six years Teal spent in Portugal had a profound impact on his development. He joined Maritimo's youth program at age 6 and recalls the experience as "amazing." But that was just part of it.
"I went to a private school and me and my buddies would always try to find a place to play after school, like parking garages or parking lots, dirt fields, anywhere we could," Teal says. "That was our life. It's the culture over there."
Alex, who started his pro career in the Canadian Soccer League, finished in MLS playing for the Kansas City Wizards in 1999-2000 before retiring at age 33. The family then settled in Minnesota, from where Teal's mother, Kristi, hailed.
"My dad started coaching me when I was in fourth grade," Teal said. "He had a huge impact and influence on me. It was tough sometimes. He pushed me a lot. At times I didn't like it and cried to my mom, 'Dad's being too hard on me.' But it was definitely worth it.
"He knew what he was talking about, so I would listen and try to do my best."
Teal Bunbury, Soccer America's 2009 Collegiate Player of the Year, also won the Hermann Trophy last year, becoming only the third sophomore to win the trophy that dates back to 1967. He'll turn 20 before the MLS season, when the Wizards will try to rebuild an offense that mustered a measly 33 goals in 30 games last season.
"I'm honored that the Kansas City Wizards are giving me an opportunity," said Teal, who has dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship. "There are high expectations. I'm up for the challenge."