NEW YORK (AP) - Teal Bunbury faced a dilemma: His father scored 16 goals for Canada’s national soccer team, but the 20-year-old forward had lived in Minnesota with his mother for most of the last decade, making him eligible to play for either country.
The first-year star of the Kansas City Wizards chose the red, white and blue Thursday, and was among six players picked by U.S. coach Bob Bradley who could make their international debuts in Wednesday’s exhibition at South Africa.
“I felt a better tie with the U.S.,” Bunbury said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I had to do what was best for me.”
In January, after winning the Hermann Trophy as college player of the year at Akron, Bunbury was quoted by CBC Sports as saying: “I was born in Canada, I have a lot of family members there, and it would feel wrong for me to play for the U.S. I feel a connection with Canada.”
Since then, he scored five goals in 26 games as an MLS rookie.
“Just really my heart, I guess. Ultimately, I want to play in a World Cup. That’s one of my goals I’ve set,” Bunbury said. “And just speaking with Bob Bradley, I really wanted to get on board with what he was coaching and what his philosophies were.”
He said his father was OK with his decision.
“I don’t want to sway you either way,” he recalled his dad telling him.
Bunbury turned down a chance to play for Canada in matches against Peru, Honduras and Ukraine, and also rejected an offer to join its under-23 team.
“I tried to convince him,” Canada coach Stephen Hart said. “I’ve always maintained that players make this decision based on what they think is best for them. I don’t think so much it has to do with anything like Canada versus whatever country.”
Burnbury would not be tied to the U.S. unless he plays in an official match, such as in next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup or a World Cup qualifier.
Two New York Red Bulls also could make debuts in South Africa, 23-year-old defender Tim Ream and 17-year-old forward Juan Agudelo. The other uncapped players on the inexperienced 18-man roster include Estoril Praia defender Gale Agbossoumonde, who turns 19 on gameday; Stabaek midfielder Mikkel Diskerud; and Glasgow Celtic backup goalkeeper Dominic Cervi.
Diskerud, who is 20, is a Norwegian citizen with an American mother who has played for the U.S. Under-20 team and Norway’s under-17 team. Agudelo, a Colombian native who has played for U.S. youth teams, started in the Red Bulls’ playoff games against San Jose because of Thierry Henry’s knee injury.