Teal Bunbury vs. Toronto
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Teal Bunbury could return for Sporting KC in US Open Cup next week

Teal Bunbury's return to Sporting Kansas City's matchday roster could come a week and a half earlier than expected.

The forward's return from ACL surgery last summer is almost complete, and manager Peter Vermes said there's a chance Bunbury could be in the 18-man roster when Sporting host USL PRO affiliate Orlando City next Wednesday in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.

“He's now getting full contact, so it's going to be us assessing what that means as we go into this next week,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com after Thursday's training session. “I don't have any desire to rush it, but I'll take it into consideration as the week goes through, where he's at, how he's feeling.”

Sporting, with their roster thinned by international absences and loans, could use another forward in the 18 against the Lions. They expected to have Soony Saad back in time for the Cup match, but he was invited to stay on for Lebanon's World Cup qualifiers after scoring on his debut with his new national side in a friendly against Oman.

While Vermes said he would not make his final decision based on depth at any position, he would like Bunbury to get some match experience before his return to league play.

“I'd like to break him in as soon as I can to get some minutes,” Vermes said. “One of the biggest things is that he's going to be going up against another team. Everybody on our team knows he's coming back from injury, so they're going to be a little bit smart about that, whereas now, playing against somebody else, they're not going to care. It's real.”

Bunbury, who turned in an energetic session on Thursday, said he would be ready if needed against Orlando City.

“I'm feeling good, and if that comes I'll be very excited,” he said. “The goal was always the game (against FC Dallas) on the 22nd, but if it comes earlier I'll be more than happy to be on that roster. I want to get in the game and get some touches.”

In the meantime, he is enjoying being able to train without having to wear the maroon neutral's vest during intrasquad scrimmages.

“It feels more like I'm part of the team now – not being a neutral, not having to go easy in tackles, things like that,” he said. “Now it's full training and it feels really good.”

And while he is still dealing with some soreness from a rough spot on his kneecap, Bunbury said he can play through that.

“It's going down slowly, but it's still there,” he said. “I think it'll take some time to completely dissipate, but it's feeling better with every training and every weight training I do. Strengthening the muscle has really helped out a lot.”