For Sporting Kansas City, 2018 was initially supposed to be a building year. Peter Vermes has said so publicly all offseason. Instead everything arrived ahead of schedule, from new player integration to young players stepping up in a big way.
One of those young players, 16-year-old Homegrown Gianluca Busio, was an integral part in helping Sporting snap out of their “summer swoon.”
Busio caught plenty of people’s attention in his first full 90-minute MLS appearance in a Sporting KC uniform, notching the game-winning assist during a physical road match against the Houston Dynamo. Now, after being used mainly as a late-game substitute in 2018, he’s ready to make his mark in 2019.
“I thought last year was a good year just to get my feet wet, to get used to the atmosphere, the professional environment and everything,” Busio told MLSsoccer.com this week. “But now, this year, since I have it under my feet, I can have hopefully a bigger year.”
After going into the 2018 preseason with a pretty good plan for how to use Busio, Jaylin Lindsey, Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal and SKC’s other youngsters, Vermes had to rip it up and go back to the drawing board – because they had surpassed where he had anticipated they’d be.
“Last year he told me that [they] had a plan for me throughout the year,” said Busio. “After preseason, it kind of blew the plan away, in a good way. So this preseason I feel like I’m doing well and am just looking to get more games in. I’m just trying to please the manager, so it’s good to hear that you’re making steps in the right direction.”
While Busio said the vision for 2019 hadn’t been portrayed to him as clearly as 2018, Vermes insisted there is still a plan in place.
“I don’t always consult with Bus [Busio] on the plans that we make,” Vermes joked with reporters. “There is always a plan in place on all the players.
“With Bus, Lindsey, Kuzain and the younger guys, where they made a good progression last year, the next step for them is that they can’t regress. They need to take another step forward, which is increasing the number of games. I can’t tell you how many that’s going to be on the first team, and how many that’s going to be on the second team [Swope Park Rangers]. But I do have a good idea about how many games I want between the two teams and they’re going to be playing.”
Busio made seven MLS appearances last year, notching a goal and assist in only 153 minutes, but also totaled 662 minutes in 10 appearances with Swope Park Rangers, Sporting’s USL Championship affiliate.
With a potential for more minutes across all fronts, Busio believes this is his time to capitalize, especially after watching MLS Homegrowns Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls) and Alphonso Davies (Vancouver Whitecaps) move on to the German Bundesliga over the winter.
“You can see that I’m in the same spot that Tyler Adams was two years ago,” Busio said. “A 16-year-old, playing in MLS, getting a couple games in, and now he’s in the Bundesliga. I think of it as, why can’t that be me?”
“Now teams are coming to MLS to look for younger players, so that’s exciting for me, really,” he added. “Just knowing that teams are going to be looking, and I think I’m in a good spot right now, in a professional league, to show them what I can do.”