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Sporting KC 2020 Year in Review: Gianluca Busio

How is this the 16th player of our look back? I’ve failed you all.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Sporting Kansas City
Kansas City, Kansas, USA; Sporting Kansas City forward Gianluca Busio (27) celebrates after scoring a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes during the second half at Children’s Mercy Park.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 MLS season has come to an end and much like we did in 2019 for Sporting Kansas City, it’s time to look back at how each player performed. Keep in mind the stats look diminished for many players, but just 21 regular season games were played in this COVID shortened season (instead of the typical 34). For the full list of players reviewed, head to our dedicated Year in Review page.

The Blue Testament continues our look back at 2020 with the Homegrown player who by far had the best season of any young player on Sporting KC — Gianluca Busio.

2020 Stats

Games Played (Started): 19 (15*)

Minutes Played: 1,275*

Goals: 1

Assists: 3*

xG (expected goals): 2.33

Positions Played: Box-to-Box Midfielder, LW, Defensive Midfielder

2019 Salary: $92,500

2020 Salary: Unknown - But likely at or slightly above 2019.

Contract Through (Option Years): 2021 (2022)

*Career Highs

Best Moment of 2020

Showing he can play defensive midfielder. As long as Busio’s name has been on the tongues of Sporting KC fans and pundits, there has been a debate about what his best position is. Is it attacking midfielder (which SKC don’t technically play with one)? Is it second striker (another spot Sporting doesn’t put on the field)? Maybe it’s on the wing (we did see some quality on the LW this year from Busio).

I’m fairly certain no one had that his best spot may be the #6, defensive midfielder role. But when Ilie Sanchez went back to Spain for personal issues, Busio stepped in and more than held his own. It wasn’t perfect, but if he played there everyday, he could become quite the deep-lying playmaker. Peter Vermes did compare him to Andrea Pirlo after all.

Worst Moment of 2020

I’ll give you two, but they are hardly “moments.” First, he was the defensive midfielder during the 5-2 embarrassment that was a horrific loss to the Houston Dynamo. The other was his time at defensive midfielder, while showing promise, got off to a rough start. After winning the first game (2-1 over Minnesota United), Busio and Sporting would go 1-3-2 in the next six games, all with Busio starting in that role. Growing pains.

Interesting Stat

-1.33. For all of the praise we and most everyone have for Gianluca Busio, this stat is something to keep an eye on. It’s the difference between his xG and his actual goals. It’s the worst on all of Sporting KC in 2020. Goals aren’t everything (just look at that positional flexibility Busio provides) but people put a lot of weight on goals.

And besides, Busio is the setup guy, not the goal scorer. He was second on the team in outperforming his expected assists behind only Alan Pulido (+1.30 to Pulido’s +1.60).

Fan Vote Results

Pick up 2021 Option: 52.5%

Decline 2021 Option: 1.0%

Pick up 2021 Option and Sell: 46.5%

Who is that one percent? There are multi-million dollar offers on the table for him. Insane.

There are basically two years left on Busio’s initial contract. If he’s still around at the end of 2021, SKC will surely pick up his option. However, it seems almost certain he’ll be gone by then if not then immediately following the season. If Sporting were to let his contract get into the final six months, he could leave for free (see: Palmer-Brown, Erik). Sporting won’t let that happen again.

There are plenty of suitors, even in this tumultuous time. The key will be to keep reinvesting that money and find the next Busio or a better Busio. There are quite a few good candidates highlighted (Osvaldo Cisneros, Gage Akalu, Nati Clarke) in The Academy, the show jointly put together by SKC and Bleacher Report Football.