- Associated Press - Thursday, November 11, 2010

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.

What changed?

“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.

Given his age, Agudelo was surprised when U.S. team administrator Pam Perkins called.

“I talked to Tim and I was like, ‘Is this a joke? Are you guys busting with me?’” said Agudelo, who turns 18 on Nov. 23.

A year ago, Ream was playing college soccer for Saint Louis University. He was selected with the 18th overall pick in January’s MLS draft, and wound up as one of only two players to play every league minute for their team this year.

On Friday, he’ll be flying to Cape Town.

“I’d like to consider it a circus,” Ream said. “It’s not all going to set in until after I get back in from this trip and think about everything that’s gone on this year, the success and failures that I’ve had.”

Ream lost out to D.C. United’s Andy Najar for Major League Soccer’s rookie of the year.

“I didn’t expect to be called in,” Ream said. “I was thinking maybe the January camp.”

Defender Eric Lichaj, who made his English Premier League debut Wednesday, also was selected along with goalkeeper Brad Guzan, his Aston Villa teammate. But most regulars will be missing from the match, among them Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra and Tim Howard.

Left back Jonathan Bornstein, who is leaving Chivas USA for Mexico’s Tigres, is the most experienced player with 35 international appearances. He’s joined by just four other players from the World Cup roster: Guzan, forward Robbie Findley and defenders Jonathan Spector and Clarence Goodson, whose club season in Norway is over.

Just six players have more than 10 international appearances, and Bornstein is the only one who appeared in the World Cup-ending loss to Ghana.

“This game is a good opportunity to look at some different players and assess their place in the pool as we continue to build for the next cycle,” Bradley said.

Following the World Cup, Bradley gave Los Angeles defender Omar Gonzalez his debut in August against Brazil and used Lichaj and Dallas midfielder Brek Shea for the first time last month against Colombia.

The roster against South Africa:

Goalkeepers: Dominic Cervi (Glasgow Celtic, Scotland), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England)

Defenders: Gale Agbossoumonde (Estoril Praia, Portugal), Nat Borchers (Salt Lake), Jonathan Bornstein (Tigres, Mexico), Clarence Goodson (Brondby, Denmark), Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa, England), Tim Ream (New York), Jonathan Spector (West Ham, England)

Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro, Sweden), Brian Carroll (Columbus), Mikkel Diskerud (Stabaek, Norway), Eddie Gaven (Columbus), Logan Pause (Chicago), Robbie Rogers (Columbus)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York), Teal Bunbury (Kansas City), Robbie Findley (Salt Lake)

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The Canadian Press contributed to this report.