A few minutes after his team had clawed back to earn a 1-1 road draw with FC Cincinnati, Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes was asked to comment on the performance of 16-year-old midfielder Gianluca Busio.
The Sporting KC Academy product had delivered yet another stellar performance, playing beyond his years under the bright lights of an ESPN audience and scoring the all-important equalizer in the 62nd minute.
Vermes’ initial reaction spoke volumes: “He’s a really, really special kid, man.”
Indeed, while most 16-year-olds are learning how to drive, cramming for science tests or finding prom dates, Busio continues to rewrite Major League Soccer’s record books.
Eight days after finding the back of the net in a 7-1 demolition of the Montreal Impact to become the youngest MLS goal scorer at Children’s Mercy Park, Busio struck again at Nippert Stadium to help his side extend its unbeaten run to four league matches.
In doing so, Busio—at 16 years and 314 days—became the youngest player in MLS history to score in back-to-back regular season matches.
His newest moment of magic came just after the hour mark on Sunday when he chased down Kelyn Rowe’s clever long ball over the top. The pass had caused a split second of confusion between Cincinnati defender Greg Garza and goalkeeper Spencer Richey, allowing Busio to swoop in and slot home a tidy finish from a difficult angle.
“I guess every time I score a goal it’s some kind of history now,” Busio acknowledged after the match. “I tend not to look at that stuff. I try to just go out there and play my best and if that means getting a goal, then that means getting a goal. I’m happy to get it and hopefully I can just keep on going.”
Adding gloss to an already special moment was the fact that Busio’s parents were in attendance at Nippert Stadium to watch their son make history.
Busio will have stolen the headlines, make no mistake, but Vermes was quick to point out that a comprehensive team effort resulted in the valuable draw. The Sporting manager made eight changes to the starting lineup from Thursday’s loss at CF Monterrey in the Champions League, notably giving club debuts to Nicolas Hasler and Gedion Zelalem and a first MLS start to goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas.
“I thought the guys that came in, with not having a lot of games under their belt, actually all did a really good job,” Vermes said. “It’s not easy anywhere in this league, let alone to do it with a bunch of guys that haven’t played a lot of games in succession. From that perspective, I’m very proud of the guys.”
To help illustrate Vermes’ point, Sunday saw a refurbished backline of Hasler, Andreu Fontas, Botond Barath and Rodney Wallace take the field. It marked the first time in team history that Sporting’s defense has no American-born players in an MLS regular season game.
“I also think that I’m proud of (the team) for trying to play the way we want to play,” he said. “At times, we actually did some really good things, other times we fell short. But the good thing is they had the courage to do it, and then another piece is that they found a way to get back in the game and grind out a result, which is not easy.”