Teenager Gianluca Busio on his game-tying goal for Sporting KC
The response would have to come from the players themselves, their coach had said. It was up to the men in Sporting Kansas City uniforms to prove an adverse situation would not define their season. To bounce back from a humbling loss.
And they did.
Gianluca Busio scored in the 88th minute Sunday, securing Sporting Kansas City a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls a handful of minutes before the final whistle.
“When he steps onto the field, he’s never intimidated by it,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “He always takes on the challenge. ... He’s always in good spots offensively. He’s got such upside, it’s incredible.”
After an uninspiring second half, Sporting KC sent a flurry of chances toward goal in the final minutes, looking for an equalizer. Finally, a pinball fell to Busio at the six-yard box.
“It just came right to me,” Busio said. “I just had to tap it in.”
In one deft touch, the 16-year-old eased the frustrations of a second half that saw the New York Red Bulls score twice in and overcome a 1-0 halftime deficit.
The irritation instead finished with the Red Bulls, showcased in one final action in which midfielder Kaku blasted a ball into the Children’s Mercy Park stands that hit a fan, who was treated for a bloody nose. Kaku was ejected for the play, which incited a scrum between the two teams. Several New York Red Bulls players and coach Chris Armas went into the stands to check on the fan after the match.
“I want to take the time and apologize for my actions during tonight’s match,” Kaku wrote in a Twitter message after the game. “As a competitor, I was frustrated with myself and took out my frustrations in a way that is not acceptable. I love this game and would never want to disrespect it.”
A mid-April match carried a bit more weight than it ordinarily would. At least for the home team. Why? The aforementioned response.
Sporting KC bowed out of the CONCACAF Champions League to Monterrey on Thursday, a pair of blowout losses that could potentially turn the tide of the awaiting MLS season.
“Coming off a letdown, it was almost nice to have such a quick turnaround and an opportunity to go out and play again,” Sporting captain Matt Besler said. “I thought we came out and started the game really well. In the second half, we weren’t as sharp with the ball, and that took a little of the sting out of the game.
“We walk away disappointed we couldn’t get three points, but that comes down to not finishing some of those chances we had in the first half to put the game away and then not playing better with the ball in the second half.”
Sporting KC opened with plenty of energy early, and Johnny Russell capitalized with a goal in the 24th minute. And it found energy late, too. Even after the Busio goal, Daniel Salloi hit the crossbar in a potential game-winner.
But it was mistake prone over the middle of the game. The New York Red Bulls drew even in the 52nd minute, Daniel Royer managing to stay onside because left back Yohan Croizet had not followed the remainder of the back line up field. Cristian Casseres picked out Royer, who after a 30-yard sprint, dribbled past Tim Melia and slid a shot across the line.
Brian White had the go-ahead goal in the 75th minute, a header in the center of the defense that Vermes called “ridiculous.”
Sporting KC has not recorded a shutout in any of its past six matches across all competitions.
“We have to get back to that organically positive defensive team,” goalkeeper Tim Melia said. “We have one shutout so far in MLS (games). That has to be our first objective. We’ve shown we can keep the ball; we’ve shown we can create opportunities. We have to get back to being ourselves defensively, and we’ll be OK.”