Sporting Kansas City striker Teal Bunbury made his international debut on Wednesday, entering as a second-half substitute in the United States 1-0 victory over South Africa in the Nelson Mandela Challenge. Bunbury was one of three Sporting Kansas City players to take part in national team friendlies on Wednesday, an official FIFA international match date, along with defenders Roger Espinoza and Shavar Thomas.
Bunbury was inserted at halftime with the U.S. tied 0-0 against the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosts, replacing World Cup participant Robbie Findley as the lone striker in the 4-5-1 formation. Sporting Kansas City’s 20-year-old striker came close to opening the scoring in the 55th minute, forcing a save from the South African goalie on his attempt, one of the United States four shots on goal in the match. Following the match, played at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, Bunbury and the U.S. squad visited Nelson Mandela at his office on Thursday. Bunbury, the fourth youngest player on the roster, recorded five goals and two assists in 26 games played during his rookie season after being selected fourth overall in the SuperDraft by Sporting Kansas City.
Espinoza, who was among the list of 11 players announced by MLS on Thursday that have graduated from Generation Adidas, started for Honduras and played the full 90 minutes in a 2-0 loss to Panama. Espinoza, pictured in the match here, made his 16th appearance for Honduras, after being a member of their 2010 FIFA World Cup team and starting two matches in South Africa this past summer. The 2008 first round SuperDraft selection out of Ohio State started 25 games for the Wizards this season and has become a regular selection for Honduras, ranked No. 57 in the latest FIFA rankings. Honduras is scheduled for a rematch with Panama on December 18th.
Thomas also put in a 90-mintue performance, serving as captain for Jamaica in their scoreless draw against Costa Rica in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Thomas, pictured in the match here, played his 31st match for Jamaica as the Reggae Boyz posted a shutout in the debut of Costa Rican Manager Ricardo La Volpe. The match was a warm-up for Jamaica, No. 82 in the FIFA rankings, who will participate in the finals of the Digicel Carribean Cup later this month in Martinique. Thomas, an eight-season veteran of MLS, played in 17 games for Kansas City after being re-acquired from Philadelphia in June.
Sporting Kansas City striker Sunil Chhetri, currently on loan to the India National Team, did not play on Thursday in India’s 5-0 loss to UAE in Dubai. Chhetri suffered an ankle injury in training that has kept him out of India’s last three matches as they prepare for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup to be held in Qatar in January.