HOUSTON – Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes didn’t mince words when asked about the performance of Gianluca Busio after the 16-year-old midfielder became the third-youngest player ever to start an MLS game in Saturday's visit to the Houston Dynamo.
“Man of the match for me,” Vermes said of Busio, who notched the game-winning assist in SKC’s 1-0 win. “For a 16-year-old to play in a game like this at the level that he did consistently for 90 minutes – he took some shots, physically, but he never got rattled, and he easily could have.”
Busio did, in fact, take a shot. In the 14th minute, Dynamo center back Alejandro Fuenmayor went up for a 50/50 ball but mistimed his challenge and drove his shoulder into Busio, who slammed to the ground, earning Fuenmayor a straight red card.
And what went behind the decision to start Busio, who Vermes said is mature for his age? Sporting’s longtime head coach said Busio had been in form and that the team needed another quality player on the ball in midfield.
“I think he was good with the ball and played between the lines in an intelligent way,” Vermes said. “He was very confident to turn and go at the back four, which cause them a lot of problems.”
It’s only Busio’s second MLS appearance, after logging 13 minutes in a 3-2 loss to FC Dallas on July 28. Before then, Busio played in a U.S. Open Cup match where Vermes said that the midfielder “got his feet wet” while getting “reactive experience.”
Busio said it’s a dream come true to make his first MLS start, but admitted that he didn’t expect it to come at such a young age. Having notched an assist to boot, would Busio have it any other way?
“Maybe score a goal,” he said. “But a good game for us, I’d say. Even with the 10 men, we played good the whole game. It was a good team performance for us and that’s a big step for us. We haven’t had the best of games lately so to get these points on the road it’s really big for us.”
Busio said he didn’t get any motivational speech from Vermes before taking the field. The coach just told him was to be confident, and his performance against the Dynamo was evidence that Busio listened.
“He’s putting me out there. I deserve it,” Busio said. “Just be confident on the ball. He believes in me and just knowing that your coach believes in you can really help you a lot as a player.”