In Sporting Kansas City's 2-1 win over Minnesota United on Friday, the team's homegrown talent got a chance to shine, as Peter Vermes opted to start midfielder Gianluca Busio and defender Jaylin Lindsey while midfielders Cameron Duke and Felipe Hernandez came off the bench. Of the group, it was Busio whose star shined brightest in the center of the park, adding to his case as a rising talent in MLS.
"I thought actually [he] was excellent today," Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes said after the match. "He gave us something a little different in the game. His work ethic, his ability to win balls. He got out of a lot of stuff."
In his second MLS start of 2020, Busio was instrumental as the team moved forward and boasted a 91% passing accuracy, all from a new position. The 18-year-old normally plays further up the field, but was instead a deep-lying midfielder. Vermes compared his role to the one Andrea Pirlo played during his playing career, and was particularly complimentary because Busio did not have a lot of training in the role.
"He stayed connected to the group without a lot of training in that spot," Vermes added. "He did a really good job adjusting to the position well."
His performance in a deeper role was also noticed by the opposition, with Minnesota defender Chase Gasper complimenting the job Busio did.
"He’s not just technical and good with the ball at his feet, but he played great defensively and put in the work and put in a really good shift in one of the most important positions on the field for a really good SKC side," Gasper said. "He’s a great young talent, American prospect and as an American you’re rooting for guys like that to keep pushing themselves, keep improving and raise the level of American soccer and I think he’s doing that."
A solid performance from 🇺🇸 Gianluca Busio (18) v. Minnesota:— Football Wonderkids (@fbwonderkids) August 22, 2020
✅ 90 min
🔑 1 key pass
🚀 4/4 long balls
❌ 5 interceptions
⚔️ 5 tackles won
🎯 91.5% pass comp
🔀 14/16 final 3rd passes
💪 7 ball recoveries
🙌 2-1 win
Not his normal role but Busio stepped up to challenge! 👏 pic.twitter.com/CyZHHP18Tw
Vermes said the opportunities afforded to Busio and the other Homegrown players showed his obvious confidence in them, and is an essential part of the development process for a team boasting talented academy products.
"This is a time for them to kind of cut their teeth and feel what it’s like to come in and secure a result," Vermes said. "That’s a big step forward for them and for the club and says a lot about what we’re trying to do with our pro player pathway. It’s not just a marketing stunt. It’s real."
Kansas City midfielder Johnny Russell was happy to see the homegrown players get minutes against Minnesota in a season where a dramatically altered schedule meant less game time for them.
"They’ve been brilliant, not just when they came in tonight — they’ve been training brilliant[ly]," Russell said. "They don’t look like they’re out of place, these boys. That’s really exciting for us."
As for Busio specifically, Russell said he offered the attackers "something different" and that he took command of the game, but joked that the Pirlo comparison is "a lot to live up to." His optimism about his young teammate, though, is quite clear.
"He’s such a quality player," Russell said, "and I mean what I say when I’m asked."