VANCOUVER, BC – Marco Bustos described his first MLS start as “bittersweet.”
On the one hand, the 19-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency graduate was thrilled to get the nod for the first time in his young career. On the other, it came in a disappointing 4-0 defeat.
So how does Bustos look back on the game?
“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” he told whitecapsfc.com. “The way the game went, it was tough because things didn’t go our way. It makes me want to come back and help the team even more.”
The ‘Caps are confident that he can do just that.
Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson subbed off Bustos at halftime on Saturday against D.C. United for tactical reasons. He said it was no reflection on Bustos’ performance and that it “could have been [any one of the] 11.”
“He’s a super, young player,” Robinson said. “I identified many years ago that he had potential. I felt it was the right time to give him a chance. Unfortunately, the team didn’t play as well as we would have liked, but nothing changes on Busty. He gets back to work.”
If this past offseason was any indication, that’s exactly what he’ll do.
Bustos was back in his hometown of Winnipeg, in the gym six days a week and on the field four days a week with his dad, who runs a soccer academy. He’d do some individual work with his dad, participate in the academy session, and then head off to the gym at night. It wasn’t much off an offseason.
“That was pretty much my break,” said Bustos, who had seven goals in 17 appearances with WFC2 last season. “I knew I had to sacrifice that to come back stronger mentally and physically.”
He had some extra motivation.
Bustos made his MLS regular season debut as a second-half sub on October 14 at FC Dallas. He entered the match just after the hour-mark and made an immediate impact, which had him in contention for Vancouver’s regular season finale against Houston Dynamo the following week.
In the end, Bustos wasn’t named to the gameday roster.
He said the coaches told him it was because he wasn’t fit enough.
“That’s when my head turned,” Bustos said. “It’s not a good feeling when someone says you’re not going to play because you’re not fit enough. I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to make that an excuse anymore.’ I had to change.”
And that’s what he did.
Bustos showed up to camp as one of Vancouver’s fittest players, had a strong preseason, and then went off and scored the game-winning goal for Canada’s U-20s in a friendly against England’s U-20s.
That brings us back to Saturday’s loss in D.C. It certainly wasn’t the first start Bustos dreamed of, but sometimes that’s just how it goes.
Turns out fellow Whitecaps FC Residency grad Russell Teibert had a similar experience.
At the age of 17, Teibert made his professional debut with the ‘Caps in the old USSF D-2 on July 31, 2010 at Carolina RailHawks. He too was subbed off at the half.
Now, he’s nearing 100 MLS regular season appearances.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with how I played and I don’t think it had anything to do with how Marco played,” Teibert told TSN Radio’s Monday Night Futbol. “I just think we needed to make an adjustment.”
As far as Bustos is concerned, the D.C. match is already in the past.
Now, he’s “onto the next one.”
Whitecaps FC visit Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium (7 p.m. PT on TSN1).
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