HAMILTON, Bermuda – With a tantalizing end to 2016, Marco Bustos feels that his time is close at hand.
The 20-year-old Bustos is a product of the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program and has come through the youth systems for both club and country. A man-of-the-match performance against South Korea last November provided a tease of his potential, and Bustos thinks 2017 is the time to make the full-time leap to the senior level.
“That thought’s in the back of my head,” Bustos said after Canada trained in preparation of Sunday’s friendly against Bermuda (2 pm ET; streamed live on CanadaSoccer.com). “I think ending 2016 with the last few months getting more in the [Whitecaps] first team, and then going to Morocco and Korea and getting to play and then having the game that I did in Korea set me up for 2017 for me to say that I can do bigger things and better things.”
Vancouver start their preseason preparations early and Bustos literally jumps into CONCACAF Champions League preparations right after wrapping up national team duty. Canada play Bermuda on Sunday and then it’s right off to the United Kingdom, where the Whitecaps start preseason in Wales.
Canada went through a week of hard training in Florida right before traveling to Bermuda, and Bustos thinks that hard week of competitive work gives him a leg up over other players who will be battling to catch the eye of Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson.
“Because we didn’t make the playoffs, offseason is quite long. But getting into Korea and then coming back here sets me up for bigger objectives,” said Bustos.
“I’m fit enough and I think that will lead me into better performances on the field and I just think, go there and go into training sessions and doing my thing.”
Having been eliminated from World Cup qualifying contention, Canada have the opportunity to start bringing in a new generation of talent. Five players will be hoping to make their debuts on Sunday.
Bustos has four CanMNT appearances already. But it’s creative players like him and Toronto FC's Jay Chapman (who is looking to make his debut) who are the future for their respective MLS clubs as well as for the national team.
“2017 has got multiple levels of objectives that we’ve set out. One of them is evaluation, assessment and integration,” said interim head coach Michael Findlay.
“Once we’ve assessed, can they step into at least performing at this level and where will they be potentially building forward. From the youth side of it, it’s an exciting time that way for everybody.”