Busio scores again, Zelalem starts as Sporting KC ties FC Cincinnati

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Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes rotated his squad for its match at FC Cincinnati, and it paid off in a point on the road.

One of the stars of the show was 16-year-old Gianluca Busio, who looked calm and composed in his central midfield role on the ball and even came away with a goal, even though it was a bit of a gift after a mixup by FC Cincinnati’s defense. In addition, Gedion Zelalem made his MLS debut starting in Sporting KC colors, going 57 minutes alongside Busio as Zelalem builds match fitness. Busio’s goal set a new MLS record for the teenager.

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Busio’s goal cancelled out Darren Mattocks’ first half penalty kick, and the MLS expansion side had multiple chances in the second half on counter attacks to pull out all three points.

Cincinnati took the early lead in the 19th minute after Roland Lamah was taken down in the penalty area. Darren Mattocks stepped up and sent Adrian Zendejas the wrong way to give the hosts the lead. It was Mattocks’ first of the season and seemed to give him an added boost of confidence.

Both teams had chances to score later in the half, with Kelyn Rowe missing a great opportunity in the box and Mattocks blasting a strike off the post.

In the second half, Kekuta Manneh was put through on goal but put his shot wide, and Cincinnati was made to pay. With the ball off on the left wing, Busio made a run through the middle of the park and was nearly picked out by Rowe. However, with Cincinnati goalkeeper Spencer Richey and left back Greg Garza approaching the ball, the two collided and failed to clear the ball, leaving Busio to finish into an empty net.

In a game that finished at 1-1, it will be remembered by both sides for all the missed changes to both. One of the other bright spots, related to the U.S. Men’s National Team, was the play of Kenny Saief. In his first start since joining FC Cincinnati, the American-born, Israeli-raised attacker floated into the middle from the wing and dribbled at defenders, creating plenty of chances for Cincinnati in the attacking third.

Ultimately though, it was Busio who stole the show. Just 16, it’s a bright sign for the future for both Sporting KC and the USMNT as he develops in the professional game.