Gianluca Busio helps Sporting to victory (Erin Nicholson/Phoenix Rising FC)
Sporting Kansas City’s 4-0 preseason win over Phoenix Rising FC had a distinct Academy flair to it.
Taking the field at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Arizona, for the first match of the 2021 preseason presented by Children’s Mercy, Sporting saw a slew of its heralded Academy products assume leading roles in the wire-to-wire victory.
For starters, Manager Peter Vermes gave playing time to 12 past and present Academy players. That bunch included nine on Sporting’s MLS roster—Grayson Barber, Gianluca Busio, Ozzie Cisneros, Cam Duke, Tyler Freeman, Wilson Harris, Felipe Hernandez, Jaylin Lindsey and Daniel Salloi—plus Sporting KC II duo Kaveh Rad and Jake Davis and current Academy standout Kayden Pierre.
In a game that was split into three 30-minute periods, Sporting did early damage thanks to the clinical finishing of Harris, the 21-year-old hat trick hero. The former Academy star showcased his imperious appetite for goals, scoring three by the 33rd minute with his final tally assisted by Davis.
“He’s very deadly in and around the box,” Vermes said of Harris after the match. “He always finds chances for himself and puts himself in good spots. I always say this: the bottom line is that if you’re on the field when the team wins, that bodes well for you to be available for selection the next time around. Everyone did themselves a positive one today.”
The other goal came courtesy of Busio, Sporting’s freshly minted No. 10 who plied his trade in the Academy before jumping to MLS as a 15-year-old in 2017.
In addition to providing all four goals on Saturday, Sporting’s Academy contingent also contributed to a well-earned clean sheet. Duke, Davis and Pierre were among the small pool of players to log 60 minutes, with Pierre drawing particular praise from Vermes after the game.
“Kayden Pierre played really well,” Vermes said. “He played 60 minutes and had very good instincts on the field—very good instincts in his vision. He’s not in any way concerned about anybody he plays against. He holds his own physically. Very interesting player and an excellent performance from a very young kid. Excellent performance.”
Sporting will continue training at Wild Horse Pass in the coming days before traveling to Tucson next Saturday for a matchup with fellow MLS club Colorado Rapids at Kino North Complex. Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. CT with live updates available on Twitter at @SKCMatchday.