VANCOUVER, BC – Put yourself in Marco Bustos’ shoes for a second.
At the end of last year, the Winnipeg native signed his first professional contract with Whitecaps FC (a pre-contract that would officially take effect in January 2015). Around that time, the club announced that it would field a United Soccer League team in 2015 with an eye towards developing young Canadians like Bustos.
Bustos signs first professional contract with Whitecaps FC
Suffice to say, the 19-year-old Whitecaps FC Residency product had high hopes coming into the year.
He got off to a good start, too, recording two goals and an assist in five preseason appearances with the first team.
But then, before Vancouver’s final preseason match in March, Bustos suffered a foot injury that had him sidelined until last week, when he made his long-awaited WFC2 debut.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Bustos said of his return. “Losing so many opportunities to play and having to watch from the side wasn’t fun and a bit stressful. But I feel super honoured and blessed to be back.”
This was the longest Bustos has ever been out with an injury. He said it was “super difficult” to deal with initially, but he quickly changed his mindset and focused on coming back better, and stronger, than ever.
And with the help of strength/conditioning coach Jon Poli and head of sports medicine and science Rick Celebrini, who designed a two-month plan to improve his strength and fitness, he did just that.
“Instead of just waiting around to recover, why not improve something else that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise?” said Bustos, who made a point to credit the medical staff for all their hard work. “So I was in the gym six days a week to prepare for the next level.”
He’s already noticing a difference, too.
Last week, the 5-foot-7 attacking midfielder made a pair of substitute appearances for WFC2, and picked up an assist in his debut, before earning his first start earlier this week.
"His fitness levels haven't really dropped," said WFC2 head coach Alan Koch. "He's done a great job keeping himself incredibly fit ... you can see he has a lot of talent, but we need to remember he's still very, very young. Before he joined us, he had only played one professional game last year so to expect miracles right off the start is expecting a lot from him. But we do have high expectations for him and we're excited to incorporate him into the group."
Bustos is expected to be involved again on Sunday, when WFC2 host LA Galaxy II at UBC Thunderbird Stadium. And he "can't wait" to play in front of the home fans for the first time.
“I’ve been out to just about all the games at home,” said Bustos, who has represented Canada at the U-17 and U-20 levels. “I saw that inaugural game and how important it was for the club … that made me want to be a part of it."
Naturally, it’s Bustos’ goal to play for the first team. But he also knows the importance of getting minutes with WFC2 and showing that he’s ready to make the jump to MLS.
“I’ve had a goal and my goal has never changed,” Bustos said. “My goal is to take the opportunities I get. Because when they’re given to you, there’s no guarantee you’ll get another chance. Hopefully I can perform with WFC2 and start knocking on the first team door.”
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