As far as national team debuts go, Gianluca Busio had a very good one.
Playing at the stadium he calls home, Children’s Mercy Park, and in front of the Sporting Kansas City fans who have grown to love him in recent years, Busio turned a 28-minute cameo on Sunday into a mouth-watering preview of what has the looks of an exciting future with the U.S. men’s national team.
Now what can he do for an encore?
With Thursday’s Gold Cup group stage match against Martinique up next, and a group finale against Canada looming large on Sunday, Busio is a good bet to earn his first national team start on Thursday, giving him an immediate chance to build on the strong showing he delivered against Haiti.
“It’s great to see his development, it’s great to see the work that Sporting KC put in to get them to this place,” USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said on Sunday. “When he came in the game, he showed a ton of calm and poise and, for the coaching staff, he did an excellent job in the game.”
Busio made an impact on Sunday almost as soon as he entered the match, forcing a good save on a hard shot shortly after entering, and showing the two-way ability by winning three duals and recording a pair of recoveries while also completing 90 percent of his passes and showing real poise in possession.
Also working in Busio’s favor was the lackluster performance of the USMNT’s starter in the defensive midfield role, Jackson Yueill. The San Jose Earthquakes midfielder completed 64 of 74 passes, and did record nine recoveries, but his lack of attacking initiative with his passing from deep in midfield was evident, and while Berhalter didn’t call out Yueill by name, his post-game comments lamenting the lack of attacking aggressiveness could have been linked to Yueill’s performance.
“I missed the urgency to score more goals and to be dangerous and first pass forward and aggressive,” Berhalter said on Sunday. “To me, it was way too slow, way too backwards. Not enough intent to turn it around and get them get them defending in the penalty box.”
The defensive midfield role was one of the positions expected to face the most scrutiny heading into the tournament, with Yueill and Kellyn Acosta expected to vie for the starting role, and potentially the back-up role behind Tyler Adams on the full USMNT for World Cup qualifying in September.
Acosta was deployed in an attacking midfield role against Haiti, and enjoyed a strong game, and is a good bet to be shifted into the defensive midfield spot for the all-important group finale against Canada on Sunday, but Busio will have a chance on Thursday to make his own case for a chance to start against the Canadians.