Sporting KC

Teenager Gianluca Busio’s goal gives Sporting KC a point in Cincinnati

Sporting KC’s Peter Vermes on Monterrey: “We’re gonna have to be really good.”

Sporting Kansas City travels to Monterrey on Thursday for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.
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Sporting Kansas City travels to Monterrey on Thursday for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.

Late Thursday in Mexico, as its letdown reverberated across Major League Soccer, Sporting Kansas City’s reaction was about as you would expect. A string of images presented the disappointment, the frustration and even a bit of shock.

In the aftermath, Peter Vermes acknowledged the obvious concern: How long will it hover over the season?

Sunday won’t completely erase the doubt of a long-term effect. But it’s a start.

Absent eight regulars, Sporting Kansas City came from behind after halftime to secure a 1-1 road draw with FC Cincinnati.

“For all those guys not having played on a regular basis and not having a rhythm here recently — to be able to come into another team’s place and play the way we did, absolutely fantastic,” Sporting coach Peter Vermes said in a phone interview. “I’m very happy with the result. Sure, I’d love to win. But I think at the end of the day, the point (was) well-deserved. We found a way to grind it out.”

On a day in which Vermes opted for a reserve-heavy lineup, Sporting KC (3-1-1) left it to the kid to ease the burden of the mid-week failure.

Teenager midfielder Gianluca Busio pulled Sporting KC even in the 62nd minute Sunday, pouncing on a mistake in Cincinnati’s back end and slotting a shot into a wide-open goal. Busio, 16, has scored in consecutive appearances and has two goals in 214 minutes this season. A week ago, he became the youngest player to score at Children’s Mercy Park. That was in a 7-1 result.

Sunday’s goal supplied a bit more impact, relinquishing the frustrations of an afternoon in which Sporting KC had wasted its best scoring opportunities.

“Great goal based on his tenacity and staying with the game,” Vermes said.

Fewer than 72 hours after a 5-0 loss in Monterrey, Mexico, in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, Sporting KC fielded a team that only slightly resembled that group. A clogged schedule prompted eight personnel changes from three days earlier, leaving only Ilie Sanchez, Johnny Russell and Andreu Fontas in the starting lineup. Goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas made his MLS debut. Midfielder Gedion Zelalem and defender Nicolas Hasler made their first appearances in a Sporting KC uniform.

Vermes singled each of them out in his postgame teleconference.

“I think in the first half we were trying to find ourselves a little bit because those guys don’t have rhythm together,” Vermes said. “Once we started to get into a rhythm, all of a sudden we started to put the pressure of them.”

FC Cincinnati forward Darren Mattocks opened the scoring from the penalty dot in the 19th minute, after Fontas was whistled for a foul in the penalty area. Zendejas had come off his line, misjudging the potential bounce of the ball on the artificial turf. That left Cincinnati midfielder Roland Lamah to hold possession through the box. The ensuing foul from Fontas wasn’t much, but it was enough for referee Ismail Elfath. It was upheld after a check with video review.

“I’ll say it right now: The penalty kick was extremely soft,” Vermes said. “Man, I hope we get those kinds of calls at (home) some day.”

The ensuing penalty kick was converted.

Most chances Sunday were not. And there were plenty.

Kelyn Rowe, whose pass sparked the Busio goal, missed a sitter 10 yards in front of goal in the first half. A second-half sequence provided Sporting KC with a flurry of chances but no goal. Cincinnati midfielder Kekuta Manneh blundered a one-on-one chance with Zendejas.

So Busio’s goal felt a long time coming, even if it required a communication miscue from the opposition.

“It was definitely deserved, for sure,” Vermes said. “No doubt, it was deserved.”

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Sam McDowell covers Sporting Kansas City, the Royals, Chiefs and sports enterprise for The Star.


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