As for how the pieces stacked up beyond them? That’s where matters were less clear.
Step in Gianluca Busio, who has quickly become one of Peter Vermes’ top options off the bench. Fixture congestion has certainly played a role, but Busio has appeared in every Sporting KC match since March 7, with the exception being their March 14 game against Panamanian club Independiente the Concacaf Champions League.
The Homegrown Player has already eclipsed his first team minutes total from 2018, which he largely attributes to growing confidence.
“Getting minutes is always a good thing for a young guy like me,” Busio told MLSSoccer.com “It definitely gives me confidence knowing that my coach will put me in games that really matter. I’m getting a lot more minutes than last year, and that’s really big for me. It makes me better as a player knowing that my coach believes in me.”
On Thursday night, with the result of their Champions League semifinal vs. Liga MX club Monterrey all but set in stone, Vermes gave Busio a valuable 30-plus minutes against a top opponent from Liga MX. After the match, Vermes explained why he’s so trusting of the youngster from Greensboro, N.C.
“First off, he’s played very well,” Vermes said. “There’s times where he can start over guys as well. And also, he deserves the experience. He just has great instincts in the game. He’s very intelligent in the way that he enters. The way that the ball goes out of bounds, he knows to pick it up quickly. He just has good tricks of the trade for his age. He’s not getting in there because he’s 16, he’s getting in there because he can play.”
Thursday wasn’t the first time Vermes has lauded Busio’s intelligence on the field, nor will it be the last. When Busio enters off the bench, he always seems to give the game exactly what it needs in that moment. Whether it’s pressing a defender, making the lone attacking run forward, or increasing the pace of ball movement, Busio has a knack for it.
In MLS play, that’s translated to goals in each of Sporting’s last two games.
“I think some of it is from pure instinct,” Busio said. “It’s how I process and think things. I don’t think I’ve ever really been taught that, I was just born with it, I guess. But it also has to come with knowing what’s going on in the game, observing. There’s times where you just know you have to play quicker, or you just know there is going to be a guy on your back. It’s definitely a little bit of both. It starts with my instincts telling me to do this, then the rest of it comes from me knowing what’s around me, knowing what I have to do next.”