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Sporting KC expects injured star Bunbury back in June

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For many athletes, It's their greatest fear.

A career-ending injury can hit at any moment, and it nearly did for one of sporting Kansas City's top goal-scorers.

Not every shot finds its target. Sporting Kansas City's Teal Bunbury can't take a chance on missing. His playing career depends on it.

"I won't forget that day," Bunbury said.

It was August 26th of last year, and Sporting KC was facing off with the New York Red Bulls. SKC was on the attack, and Bunbury tried tapping the ball away from the New York goalie.

"My left leg planted in the ground wrong and kind of snapped back," Bunbury said. "It was pretty painful."

It didn't take team doctors long to discover the trouble -- Bunbury had torn two ligaments in his left knee, and it would cost him most of a year's worth of soccer.

"I've had sprained ankles here or there, but nothing like this," Bunbury recalled.

The road to recovery goes on, eight-and-a-half months after the surgery. Bunbury is back to practice, but it's taken months of work with therapists and strength coaches to get there. Teal says he's needed to relearn the basics -- including how to walk and run.

"Teal is like an iron fist," SKC Fitness Coach Mateus Manoel said. "It's not easy to comeback from an injury like this. It takes a lot of mental concentration, focus, it's physically exhausting."

During his three full seasons in Kansas City, Bunbury has been a go-to scorer for coach Peter Vermes with 24 goals in three years and it's attitude and determination that are bringing him back. If all goes well, coaches and teammates expect Bunbury to come bouncing back sometime in June.

"I've been here three years, and I've never seen him so excited, and so motivated," SKC Goalie Jimmy Neilsen said.

"We just want to be careful," SKC Coach Peter Vermes said. "He's come this far, and we don't want to give up that time he's put in."

Bunbury says he owes it to the fans, his teammates, and God Himself to make it all the way back.

"(God) has given me an opportunity to play a sport for a living," Bunbury said. "I want to take advantage of my opportunity. I don't want to settle for mediocrity."

The drive is alive, and the athlete hopes to play again soon.

Sporting Kansas City travels to DC United this Sunday afternoon at 4pm. Bunbury isn't making road trips with the team during his time of recovery.

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