Gianluca Busio has a lot to look forward to when Sporting Kansas City host Austin FC Sunday (7:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes). The expansion side is in good form and the match, the finale of Week 4 of the regular season, is on national television.
But most of all, the young attacker is looking forward to reuniting with Matt Besler, a former captain, mentor and ride on his return to Kansas City.
“Obviously he’s taught me a lot. He made everything easier for me when I first signed,” Busio said of Besler. “He was my ride for a year or two so he was a great guy for me to have and just showed everybody, even the older guys, how to be professional. He was a true leader. I looked up to him. I’m looking forward to going against him. We still text to this day and ask how we’re doing. I’m looking forward to it. He taught me a lot and I don’t think I’d be in this position without him.”
Besler spent 12 seasons with Sporting, contributing three goals and 18 assists in 294 games (285 starts). He helped them lift MLS Cup in 2013 and win three U.S. Open Cups. The 33-year-old center back signed with Austin FC as a free agent in January after being out of contract with SKC.
That leadership has been instrumental for Austin FC in its expansion season, especially with many on the roster relatively new to MLS.
“He has 12 years experience in this league, has a good calmness about him and a good demeanor and that reflects well on the group,” Austin FC coach Josh Wolff said.
Busio knows all about that. He smiled when reflecting back on his time with Besler and those car rides to and from training after signing with SKC as a 15-year-old homegrown.
“The first year there wasn’t much talking, I was a little shy and I was with the captain of the team, I didn’t want to say much or say the wrong thing,” Busio said. “But after a year or two we just talked about, there was usually a game on the day before, so we talked about that. He’d tell me stories about some of the guys or when he was my age and stuff like that. After the first year it got a little easier and the conversation was flowing.”
With Busio enjoying a good run of form to start the 2021 season as he wears the No. 10 jersey, Busio was asked who has the edge in the individual matchup.
“I don’t know, we’ll find out on Sunday,” he said with a wry smile. “We had a couple battles in training. He’s a couple more years than me I would say so he went up against a lot of attackers in his day, it will be good. I’ll be ready for it. I don’t know who will come out on top, hopefully I will, but we definitely know each other well. I’m interested to see how it will go.”