Busio Strikes Late as Sporting Snares 2-2 Draw vs. Red Bulls
Sixteen-year-old Gianluca Busio notched a dramatic equalizer on Sunday night as Sporting Kansas City (2-1-3, 9 points) battled the reigning Supporters' Shield champion New York Red Bulls (1-3-2, 5 points) to an enthralling 2-2 draw at Children's Mercy Park.
Johnny Russell had fired Sporting ahead in the 24th minute with his fourth goal of the season, but New York flipped the script after halftime through Daniel Royer's 52nd-minute strike and Brian White's 75th-minute header. Busio then marked his second-half introduction with a crucial goal two minutes from full time, scoring in his third straight MLS appearance to produce a share of the spoils and help Sporting extend their unbeaten run to five league matches.
Busio's late intervention was the final twist in a back-and-forth affair that pitted the 2018 first-place finishers in the Eastern and Western Conference, respectively. The nationally televised clash on FS1 also served as a rematch of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, which saw Sporting prevail in a 2-1 nail biter on home soil.
Three days after bowing out of the Concacaf Champions League in a semifinal defeat to Monterrey, Sporting were eager to atone and took an early stranglehold against the visiting Red Bulls. An immediate spell of pressure saw Felipe Gutierrez force a diving save from New York goalkeeper Luis Robles, who was busy between the pipes throughout the first half. Russell then diced through defenders Connor Lade and Aaron Long before dragging his shot inches wide of the right post.
The Red Bulls seldom threatened in the opening stanza but thought they had grabbed the lead on 16 minutes when Bradley Wright-Phillips slotted home off a Michael Murillo cross. Wright-Phillips had scored eight goals in nine previous appearances against Sporting, but this one was overturned as the Englishman was flagged offside.
Playing their fifth match in 16 days, Sporting showed no signs of fatigue during a dominant first-half spell that ultimately produced the game's first goal. Zusi's throw-in from the right sideline found Krisztian Nemeth, who cushioned an inch-perfect pass through to Russell. The 29-year-old finished with aplomb from a tight angle, striking low across Robles for his 14th career regular season goal. Nemeth tallied his first assist on the play, while Zusi picked up the 64th helper of his heralded regular-season career.
Yohan Croizet represented the lone change to Sporting's lineup from Thursday, stepping in for Seth Sinovic at left back, and almost doubled his side's advantage in stunning fashion on the half-hour mark. The Frenchman unleashed a dipping strike from 30 yards, prompting Robles into an acrobatic fingertip save that kept the score 1-0. The veteran gloveman spared his team's blushes again in the 33rd minute, sprawling to push aside Nemeth's turf-trimmer after the hosts worked the ball through the heart of the New York defense.
New York had entered Sunday with a three-game losing streak and successfully avoided a fourth straight defeat thanks to an improved performance in the second half. Royer restored parity seven minutes after the restart, running onto Cristian Casseres' looping long ball before rounding Tim Melia and finishing for his team-best fifth goal of the year in all competitions.
Russell nearly bagged his second of the evening in the 63rd minute, playing an incisive give-and-go with Nemeth along the right side of the box, only to see his curling effort miss by the slimmest of margins. Sporting would rue the misfire 12 minutes later when the Red Bulls surged in front.
Three minutes after replacing Wright-Phillips, White planted a header into the corner of the net for his first goal of the campaign. Kaku recorded the assist with an inch-perfect cross from the left flank, putting Manager Peter Vermes' men behind the proverbial eight-ball heading into the final quarter-hour.
Busio made his impact-and more history-with 88 minutes on the clock. Seven days after becoming the youngest MLS player to score in consecutive league matches, the 16-year-old struck again to pull Sporting level. Zusi's low drive through a crowded penalty area reached the opportunistic Sporting KC Academy product, who coolly steered the ball home from close range to record his fourth career MLS goal and ignite celebrations across the stadium.
The scoring was over but the fireworks were not, as a mass confrontation broke out in stoppage time after Kaku advertently rifled the ball into the crowd. The midfielder was punished by referee Robert Sibiga with a straight red card for violent conduct, forcing the Red Bulls to sweat out the dying embers down a man.
Having faced three straight MLS clubs from the East, Sporting will now prepare for a Western Conference road battle next Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes. Vermes' side is 5-0-2 versus San Jose in the last seven meetings and will aim to improve upon that record in a 9 p.m. CT matchup at Avaya Stadium, slated to air live on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus.
QUOTES Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
Thoughts on the match...
We played very well in the first half. We created a lot of chances. We needed to score more than one goal. Those chances came back to bite us a little bit. It's unfortunate because I think over the course of the game, we were the better team.
On the play of Gianluca Busio...
I say it all the time, he's not 16. He's like 25. He's a very mature kid. He gets it. He's always in the game and he understands what the game needs. He's an important player for our club and at the same time he's making big strides in a short period of time.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio
On his goal...
I positioned myself where we're supposed to be on corners. The ball popped out and I saw Zusi was going to hit it, so I backed out to an onside position and luckily it got to me and I tapped it in.
On being labeled the 16-year-old...
I'm kind of immune to it. I'm used to it. Last year, I was the 15-year-old. Soon it's going to be the 17-year-old. It's my age. They're just saying it. I'm fine with it.
On scoring in three straight games...
They keep me humble. Everybody on the field, they're old professional guys. They teach me how to be humble. If I get a big head, they're going to knock me down a couple pegs. The guys around me keep me humble.
On the team's performance...
I thought we came out strong and we got tired I guess at the end of the first half. We were kind of sleeping coming out to the second half but we picked it up at the end there. We could have won the game. The energy at the end was really good from us.
On the team's fitness with the schedule congestion...
I think we're all fine. We have all the equipment to help us stay ready for the game so that's not a problem. We just have to stay mentally focused. Playing a lot of games back to back, it's very tough on your mental game. I feel like we have a great group of guys to do that.
On the team's mentality heading to San Jose...
We'll go back into training, work harder and try to do better in the next game.
Sporting Kansas City defender Andreu Fontas
On the result...
For us, it's not good enough. We want to win always. I think we had a great first half. We deserved to score more goals. I think maybe it would have closed the game. When you play against teams like the New York Red Bulls, everything can happen. In the second half, I think we weren't good enough. They scored two goals and then I think it's a good thing that we find power from out of nowhere to go and get the result. We were so close to winning it again with the (shot off the) crossbar by Daniel. A lot of positive things but also things to work on and keep working to be better.
On giving his jersey to the fan struck by a ball...
I was so close when I saw the ball. It was a very, very, very hard ball that he gets in his face. I felt very bad for him because he was here to enjoy and to see a good show, a good match and he doesn't deserve this. I went after (the game) to give him my jersey because I felt very bad for him and (wanted to make him) feel a little bit better. I said, 'I hope you're okay. Thank you for the support.' It's bad luck and for sure, the other player of the other team didn't want to hit him in his face but it was one of the hardest things I've seen in a stadium. Hopefully he's okay and he can come back next game to support us.
On the reaction from Sporting players...
I think everybody reacted so fast. We need (fans) and we're so happy when we have them here. They're a very important aspect of our team and of our stadium and of playing at home. (We said) to the guy on the other team that this is not good to do it. This is a stupid thing.
On Yohan Croizet starting at left back...
We know that he's a very good player that can play in a lot of positions. I think that he did a very good job. It's not easy to adjust to different positions every time. I think he was very good in the game. It's good for everybody to be in the starting lineup because the season is very long and we need everybody to achieve what we expect to do.
New York Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas
Thoughts on the match...
We thought Kansas City would put a lot into it early on and we thought, maybe if they went with their starters again, they would fade a little bit. We felt it was two different halves for us. We were a little bit late to plays. Some of our pressing and some of our defensive posture in the first half we let get away from us. Kansas City is good at what they do. No matter what we do, with and without the ball, we remain aggressive. No matter what structure we play. When we're aggressive, things look so different for us. At halftime, we made an adjustment to release our outside midfielders and outside backs in more of an all out press, which we thought caught them by surprise and certainly helped us be more like us.
On the red card to Kaku...
I didn't see it. I was with our guys over there seeing the fan that got hit with the ball. It's good to see our guys go over there and just apologize on our behalf. I was there with them. Listen, I think we've got to make good decisions. I think Kaku was hoping for a different pass. He's apologized to the team and to the fan, as well. I think he's just frustrated and trying to smash it into the signage. You've got to be careful. We hope that the gentleman is okay. We apologize. We're sorry that happened.
On the goal from Brian White...
Brian has been working hard for a few years now. Every so often you see a guy get rewarded with a goal like that. Brad put a lot into the game. He had lots of good looks and some moments. Brian came into to share some of that work and do some of that dirty running. We know that tactically he's connected in the right way and, of course, it's good service from Kaku and Brian does what he does. He scores goals regularly. I'm thrilled for him. It was a big goal for us.
On the decision to bring Brian White off the bench...
We get to see day in and day out the work that Brian does. We know that the demand for Bradley Wright-Phillips is high against the ball and with the ball. We ask him to run behind and we ask to be connected always defensively. It's a big ask. To come in and provide energy up the field and just a spark and to meet the demands of the game, it's why we brought Brian in. He's a goal scorer. Things were going pretty well, so you always wonder which move do you make? We're thrilled for Brian.
On the team snapping it's losing streak...
There's two different perspectives. One from the outside looking in and one from the inside. On the inside, we think that the performances have been pretty good but the results haven't been there. But psychologically and for the morale, it's good to get goals and it's good to get points and it's good to see the work come out and to see progress and to see us control the game in many ways in the second half and to see us control it against the ball - to really make Kansas City, who we think is a really good team in this building especially, uncomfortable. And then with the ball, there was a freedom and still an urgency and a purpose with what we're doing and real ideas there. So that's what we're happy about. We stuck together. We grew into the game. We said before the game, we're going to leave here winners and we did. We're winners tonight. Overall, a really good performance.
On the Special Olympics exchange match...
We hung out today for a good breakfast and I got to know some of the people. They're beautiful. It's a great relationship we have with the Unified Team. They're behind us and we're behind them. There are a few different events that we link up together. They were a little bit nervous early on but that's part of it. Now we're going to get to see them have some fun.
New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles
Thoughts on the match...
A tale of two halves. The first half, maybe we were a bit nervous. I'm not sure. We weren't really looking like us. We weren't imposing our will. In the second half, our response was amazing. I think the guys are a little down because we felt like we should have walked away with three points and yet we walk away with one. At least it's a step forward against a very good team. We just have to keep building from here.
On the red card to Kaku...
Kaku is an emotional guy. He plays with a lot of passion and frustration got the better of him. I don't think he was in any way trying to be violent toward the other team or their fans. It's just emotion is a big part of this. He has to find a way to control it and to temper it because he was amazing in the second half. A lot of the good things that we were able to do to relieve pressure were through him. I know that he's remorseful about it. I know that he didn't mean to do it.
On rallying from a goal down...
I think a small part of us was disappointed we gave up the goal that we did only because we had weathered most of the storm and then something that starts off as innocuous as a throw-in and they get the better of us, they get behind us and they score a goal. We're going to be frustrated there, but we also knew that we had 45 minutes. With the way that things had been going - three losses in a row -- it's a pivotal moment for us to show that we have character, that we can respond and our response was great. It's just unfortunate that we couldn't get the three points and finish it off. As I eluded to before, it's something we can build on.
On the goal by Brian White...
When I think about the goal -- and I haven't really seen the replay, I just saw it happen live - it looked like us winning a ball, playing it forward, playing quickly and getting a cross into the box. It was a great finish by Brian. But when I think about Brian, what an incredible guy. His preseason was difficult because he was battling some injuries. And you could see that he was working hard to get back onto the field. He's a guy that we can count on. He's a guy that everyone in the soccer room believes that he can make a difference when he comes onto the field and he showed that tonight.
On the team's first half struggles...
We were playing against a good team. I love playing here at this park. The fans are great. They're rambunctious. They bring a lot of spirit. Even though this is one of the places where I hear I suck the most, something about it is fun. It's so much better to play in stadiums that are full and full of energy than some other venues where it's half full and there isn't the same sort of life. So anytime we play Kansas City in Kansas City, I look forward to it. In the first half, we didn't necessarily match their energy or play to the best of our ability but we got out of there 1-0. Going into the locker room we felt, 'We're in a decent position. Let's respond and win the second half and walk away with something.' Because of the standards that we set, we want the three points but at this point we'll take the one.
New York Red Bulls forward Brian White
On his goal...
Kaku got the ball out wide and Chris [Armas] told me to split the center backs so I picked up that position. We made eye contact, he played the ball in and I just tried to get my head on it.
On subbing on for Bradley Wright-Phillips...
It feels good to help the team, to contribute to the team, and to put us into a position to win. Unfortunately, we couldn't hold the scoreline but it's a good result away from home. Hopefully we can continue this and get a win next weekend.
On dealing with injuries...
We were down in the Dominican and I had a bit of a hamstring injury but it's good to be back in with the team and get some minutes in and put together a goal that gets us a point.
On the incident at the end...
I didn't exactly see what happened, but you hate to see that. You hope he's okay and there's no long-term injury with him. I didn't see what happened, but I just hope he's ok.
New York Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Royer
On his goal...
I think it was to come back into the game. I think it gave us an extra push to even maybe win the game. It was a great ball from Cristian (Casseres Jr.). I wasn't sure if I was offside or not, so I had to wait a little bit. I just tried to keep my composure and try to score.
On the incident at the end...
I didn't see it because I was on the bench already, but I heard. It's very unfortunate. We're very sorry for what happened. I think he definitely didn't mean to hit a person. He definitely meant to hit the board and it shouldn't have happened. He's sorry and we're sorry and he definitely didn't mean to do that.
On the second half performance...
In the second half, we looked like us. I think we also found more spaces, or KC gave us more space in behind and in front of their backline and we were able to use them way better than the first half. In the first half, we were struggling a little bit with the way that they played. For me, they are one of the best teams in the league. In the second half, we looked like us and we were really good at counter pressing, winning second balls, and playing forward. So we got the lead and it was a good performance in the second half with a weird ending.
2019 MLS Regular Season
Game 6 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 57 degrees and sunny
WATCH: Full match highlights
GOAL: Johnny Russell opens scoring
GOAL: Gianluca Busio bags late equalizer
POSTGAME: Midfielder Gianluca Busio
Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (2-1-3, 9 points) 1 1 2
New York Red Bulls (1-3-2, 5 points) 0 2 2
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Andreu Fontas, Matt Besler (C), Yohan Croizet; Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza (Gianluca Busio 66), Felipe Gutierrez (Kelyn Rowe 85); Johnny Russell, Krisztian Nemeth, Gerso Fernandes (Daniel Salloi 82)
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Botond Barath, Nicolas Hasler, Seth Sinovic
New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles (C); Michael Murillo, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Connor Lade; Sean Davis, Marc Rzatkowski (Amro Tarek 97+); Cristian Casseres Jr., Kaku, Daniel Royer (Vincent Bezecourt 86); Bradley Wright-Phillips (Brian White 72)
Subs Not Used: Ryan Meara, Kyle Duncan, Derrick Etienne, Andreas Ivan
SKC -- Johnny Russell 4 (Krisztian Nemeth 1, Graham Zusi 1) 24
RBNY -- Daniel Royer 2 (Cristian Casseres Jr. 1, Bradley Wright-Phillips 1) 52
RBNY -- Brian White 1 (Kaku 1, Aaron Long 1) 75
SKC -- Gianluca Busio 3 (unassisted) 88
RBNY -- Tim Parker (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 53
SKC -- Kelyn Rowe (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 89
RBNY -- Kaku (red card; violent conduct) 94+
RBNY -- Luis Robles (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 97+
SKC -- Krisztian Nemeth (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 97+
Stat SKC RBNY
Shots 20 10
Shots on Goal 6 6
Saves 4 4
Fouls 10 16
Offsides 2 4
Corner Kicks 6 5
Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Referee: Ian Anderson
Assistant Referee: Andrew Bigelow
Fourth Official: Alejandro Mariscal
VAR: Kevin Terry Jr.
AVAR: Peter Manikowski
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