The Call Up

Johnny Russell on Gianluca Busio: "Something's changed in the offseason"

Gianluca Busio - Sporting Kansas City - dribble

The 2021 MLS season is a crucial one for Sporting Kansas City homegrown Gianluca Busio, and so far club captain Johnny Russell likes what he sees from the 18-year-old midfielder.

In fact, the Scotsman sees a transformation unfolding in the US youth international, who scored during last weekend's 1-1 draw with Orlando City SC.

"Busio's stepping up," Russell said on The Call Up. "The way he came back for preseason, something's changed in Busio. I don't know if it's his mindset or whatever it is. Whatever he's changed in the offseason, he's come back – you could tell right away when we first started training in preseason that he looked different."

Busio continues to generate overseas interest, according to's Tom Bogert, and is showing versatility across midfield. He's even played as a false No. 9, now reaching six goals and five assists in 50 games (28 starts) for Sporting.

Busio's just one piece to the puzzle as Sporting looks to build off their Western Conference first-place finish in 2020. They're 1W-0L-1D in the season's onset, beating the New York Red Bulls 2-1 away before drawing Orlando at Children's Mercy Park.

"It's early days," he said. "You don't really know until maybe 10 games into your season how you're going to look. But to go to New York and get the result, especially after going down a goal, that was a good result for us. Even the Orlando game, we didn't play well, we didn't play anywhere near our standards."

For more from Russell on Sporting and the latest around MLS, check out the latest episode of The Call Up.