Monday, May 23, 2011

(Possibly) The Next Eddie Johnson

This past offseason many Sporting KC and USMNT fans were half hoping and half expecting a break out season from Teal Bunbury. In his rookie year Bunbury netted five goals in 25 appearances for the club as Peter Vermes broke him in slowly; this led many to believe Bunbury would lead Sporting to lofty heights this season. What truly added fuel to the fire was Bunbury's offseason in which he shunned Canada, who his father had played for, and scored a goal against Chile for the USMNT. Bunbury also joined Stoke City for an extended period of training which included scoring a goal against Wigan in a reserve match.

Despite breaking his wrist early in the season Bunbury looked to be fully recovered after netting twice in Vancouver with two fantastic finishes and once in Chicago, thanks to a diabolical back pass on the part of the Fire. But lets pump the breaks a little. It has now been a month since we last saw Bunbury score for Sporting. Though not many others are scoring for Sporting either. We can debate all day long what the true problem is for this team, and why Bunbury hasn't scored as of late; but there's no denying he has been over hyped. Lets look back to January 2011 at the Home Depot Center when Bunbury recorded his first international goal. Oh, how people made a fuss. No one seemed to realize it was from the penalty spot and not from open play. Though the USMNT played well with Bunbury up front they were still as anemic as they were at last summer's World Cup where Jozy Altidore and company couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. As a matter of fact part of Bunbury's offseason hype could also be attributed to commentator Pablo Ramirez who coined the ridiculous Boon-Boo-Ree following Bunbury's penalty kick goal.

Word this week was Bunbury has several clubs looking at him, and sure why not. He's young, has a lot of athletic ability and like many US players if he is in the right situation he could do well. But he is already reminding me of a former Kansas City Wizards player who had his sights set on Europe only to be kicked around on loan for the best part of four years.

Eddie Johnson was once a bright upcoming soccer player in the USA. Signed at the age of 17 to the Dallas Burn (FC Dallas), Johnson was thought to be the future of MLS and possibly the USMNT. During his time with Dallas, Johnson would give the club a good return scoring 24 in 84 matches over four seasons. During this time Johnson shined at the youth levels of the national team which included him winning the Golden Boot at the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championships. Johnson even had a chance for a big money move to Europe only to reject a reported $5 million move to Benfica. Of course we know they would later shell out $2 million for Freddy Adu.

With Dallas in need of salary cap space they traded Johnson to KC during the 2006 offseason giving many KC fans hope that Johnson could lead the Wizards back to the top of MLS; during a time the team was unsure it would still be in KC. Johnson would give mixed results looking top class one moment only to look like your average MLS player the next. After training abroad and turning down deals, all the while not leading KC to the promise land, Johnson moved to the English Premier League hoping to emulate fellow Americans Clint Dempsey and Brian McBride who were already on Fulham's books.

Since leaving for Fulham, Johnson has made 18 appearances and has scored zero times. Most recently he played with the club at the beginning of 2010 before going out on-loan to Preston North End. PNE was relegated this season to League 1 with Johnson scoring no goals and drawing the ire of Preston's supporters. Since leaving for Europe it has been a bag of mixed results for Johnson. Two other loan deals to Cardiff City and Aris Thessaloniki have yielded better results, but the fact remains Johnson has failed to live up to expectations. Since 2006 he has also stood on the periphpery of the USMNT, and was a shock inclusion to Bob Bradley's pre-World Cup roster only to be cut before the tournament. With his Fulham contract set to end this summer don't be surprised to see Eddie Johnson return to MLS to revamp his faltering career.

Bunbury, like Johnson was, is a bright prospect still raw and unpolished. So many expectations have been laid at the feet of young US attacking players: Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson, only for these players to fall far below expectations for one reason or another. Teal Bunbury could be the next and mostly remembered for Boon-Boo-Ree.

(So far this season Bunbury has scored three goals for a bi-polar Sporting attack and hasn't scored in his last 420 minutes.)

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