Gianluca Busio - Sporting Kansas City - August 29, 2020
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes reveals what went into decision to play Gianluca Busio in central midfield

When Sporting Kansas City returned to play following the MLS is Back Tournament, Peter Vermes made a tactical move that opened a lot of eyes around the league.

Gianluca Busio emerged as a deep-lying midfielder. It’s not a role the 18-year-old was familiar with, but one he’s earned rave reviews in.

Busio has started all three of Sporting’s matches in Phase 1 of the restart and has averaged the most distance run per game (7.3 miles per game) in the league. In a 1-1 draw at Colorado on Saturday, Busio scored his team’s lone goal and won all seven of his duels.

Sporting coach Peter Vermes said he’s not always had Busio pegged for that position, but a season-ending injury to Felipe Gutierrez meant the depth there was thin. Vermes said several attributes Busio have made him an ideal candidate. And it starts with the Homegrown’s mentality.

“He's got a great attitude, very willing to to take on whatever the challenge is, and that's like nine-tenths of a successful soccer player,” Vermes said in a conference call with reporters Monday. “If you have a good mentality, if you are willing to basically get on the field, no matter what the circumstances are, and then you're going to give it always your best shot, I mean right there you already find success and so ‘Bus’ has got those qualities.”

Then, Vermes said, Busio is technically sound for an 18-year-old and has great instincts.

“He’s done a great job in a short period of time,” Vermes said.

Of course, there’s a learning curve for any player in a new position and that’s true with Busio, who was questioned for his defensive ability in a 5-2 loss to the Houston Dynamo.

“I know you guys look at it from game to game, I look at over the course of a period of time,” Vermes said. “I’ve seen with a lot of the young guys a progression and they're gonna make mistakes, but that doesn't mean that all sudden it's like are they good enough because believe me there's a lot of older players that make mistakes in games as well.”

Vermes said the response from that loss was a positive one for Busio and 20-year-old Jaylin Lindsey, who has earned three consecutive starts at left back.

“That's going to be a part of the progression of these players,” Vermes said. “They still have a lot to work on, they still have a lot to learn, but a lot of it's going to depend on their attitude and right now their attitudes are very good.”

Vermes said he’s not about to just throw young players starts just because they’re young. He needs to see it in training and then when they come in off the bench, Of course, in a results-based business, Vermes knows there’s a risk he’s taking, but he’s willing to gamble to figure out how ready those players are for pressure-packed situations, both now and in the future.

“I look for players that bend and don't break,” Vermes said. “If you're put into a difficult situation and you break, then you're not going to win championships with players like that and these guys, even though they're young, it's great experience for them, it’s a great opportunity for us to see where they are and how they continue to keep growing.”

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