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"I don't know if I can sum it up," the Residency alumni told reporters after the Dallas match. "It's an amazing feeling playing for your country, then getting my first cap and then getting my MLS debut the next day. Within 24 hours, two appearances, making my first appearances with both national team and club. "I flew in this morning. I left my hotel in Washington [DC] about 5 in the morning. It was a bit iffy with the flight, I had some complications there. Got in, slept for about three hours, then had my pre-game lunch and then that was that." A hectic schedule, but he tried to get some sleep in DC before heading off, not always the easiest when the adrenalin is flowing and long time friend Sam Adekugbe is your national team roomie! "Sam was my room-mate, so it was a bit noisy," Bustos joked. "But that was a good sleep." Making his senior debut for his country, was a dream come true for Bustos, who has represented Canada at U17 and U20 level in the past. Having strangely been deemed surplus to requirements by Benito Floro for Canada's Olympic U23 squad, Bustos' call up to the senior team was perhaps unexpected, but once it came he wanted to savour every minute of it and he did. "It was huge playing against such a big country like Ghana, who were at all the World Cups recently" Bustos said. "Just to go there and play with them and against them, it was great. To get a 1-1 result, you couldn't have asked for anything better. Well, we could have got the three, but it's a great country." A fantastic occasion for the Manitoba native, but then making his MLS debut for the Whitecaps the very next day just took his week to another level. "I felt like a little kid in the park," Bustos said with a grin that didn't leave his face for the whole press scrum. "Getting the call to come in with 30 minutes left, it was a dream come true. I just wanted to go in there and have fun. "Robbo always tells me just to go out and have fun. He likes how I go out there. I don't look nervous and I just want to make things happen. So I have to please the manager! That's just the way I play as well." Whitecaps' coach Carl Robinson hadn't told Bustos that he was definitely playing when the young midfielder headed westwards from Washington, but his sparing use in the Canada friendly provided Robinson with the ideal chance to blood the rookie. "Whenever a player's on the bench, you always expect yourself to go in," Bustos said. "You just need to be ready and I was ready, and when I got the call I just wanted to make the best of it." The hectic travel itinerary certainly didn't seem to affect Bustos, who looked fresh and sharp when he came on for the last 29 minutes in Dallas, impressing many watching, including 'Caps keeper, and captain on the night, David Ousted. "I thought he did really well," the Dane told reporters after the match. "I was impressed by the way he went in and he played the way that we know he can. It can be intimidating coming in and having to take responsibility in that midfield but he did well. He was good on the ball, nice passes and I thought he looked dangerous. Again, it's that little bit of depth and guys like him gets that chance now." With the injuries decimating the Whitecaps creative players right now, that chance is very much there for Bustos. Pedro Morales, Mauro Rosales and Nicolas Mezquida didn't make the trip to Dallas and Robinson revealed after the game that all three potential number 10's look set to miss the season closer against Houston next weekend. Whether they'll be fit for the playoffs seems touch and go, with Mezquida looking to be the furthest along the road to recovery but not there just yet. Cristian Techera did make the trip, trained on Tuesday and felt pain in his hamstring during his first sprint. For us, he's the key to the Whitecaps having any success this postseason and his loss would be the most widely felt. That all means that someone has to fill the very big attacking, creative midfielder void. Step forward Bustos, whose chance to shine is coming at just the right time, rewarding his patience in his rookie season, and its a chance the player is eager to try and grab with both hands and one that his manager seems prepared to give him. "He showed today in his 30 minute's that he's an option," Robinson said of Bustos after the Dallas game. "He was confident, he showed no fear, he wanted to get on the ball, he made things happen, he got in the penalty box. Technically, he's a very good player, so I'll have no worries throwing him in." It's still a big ask of a teenager who has only played his first MLS minutes in the penultimate game of the season. Daunting, but the one thing we know about Bustos is that it will certainly not faze him. He has a confident swagger, we love. All the best players have that. Some may say cocky, but again, in football, we see that as a much needed trait to have. "Even when the guys are not injured I'm thinking about the next game and hoping and dreaming about maybe getting the call," Bustos says. "Hoping that Robbo says 'just get in there'. I'm always ready." He'll definitely be getting his shot for next week's now pointless, and frankly pain in the ass, trip to Honduras to face CD Olimpia in the 'Caps final game of their first ever CONCACAF Champions League campaign. Even without the injury crisis, Bustos was scheduled to play in that one, and, naturally, he's ready for the next stage of his Whitecaps adventure. "If I get the call, I'll be ready for that and just make the best of it and, again, have fun," Bustos added. "If I get the 90, I'm going to push through it as best I can. I just got to get through it. We're all born to play soccer, to play 90 minutes, that's the sport. You've just got to be ready." It's been a tough first season in the pros for Bustos. After impressing in the preseason, he's had to bide his time and fight back to fitness after missing a huge chunk of the early part of his season through an injury that occurred in training (through kicking a teammate just that bit too hard!). It ruled him out of any MLS minutes and any time in the Canadian Championship semi-final against Edmonton. It also curtailed his expected time in USL with WFC2, where he was expected to be an integral part of the team. He eventually made his USL debut in the summer, going on to become the joint leading scorer with WFC2 alongside Caleb Clarke, with 7 goals and 2 assists in his 17 appearances. Those appearances with the USL team got Bustos ready for the pros in terms of match fitness and physically. "Getting in there and playing for 90 minutes, it's great for a guy like me," he feels. "The way we play, to get that style and bring it to the first team, it's great to get those minutes rather than just be training all the time. It's good. It makes me grab more confidence and I couldn't ask for anything better." Moving from excelling in youth football to continuing to excel in the highly competitive ranks of USL is one thing, but Bustos has already found out that making the further move up to MLS is another whole other level again. "Obviously MLS is more demanding and everyone is on top of everybody, but it makes you play better," Bustos said after his debut in Dallas. "Having guys pushing you, pushing you, pushing you, makes you not want to make a mistake, so you're always trying to do your best. With USL, I'm just trying to get everyone into the play and most of the balls are coming to me." Of course, amidst all the good times for Bustos with his MLS debut comes the stark reality of the Whitecaps plight right now. As exciting as his first appearance of the season was for him, it came in a defeat for the 'Caps, which he's fully aware of, but in his confident manner, he sees this as just a mere blip for the club right now. "Personally, I'm excited, but for the team, we've just got to keep going till we reach our last steps in this MLS season," Bustos added. "I think we're going to get through it, go to the playoffs and we're going to go far in the playoffs. That's all I can say." And Bustos may still have a large part to play in that goal.
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"They're fantastic signings for the club," Robinson told reporters. "I'm absolutely delighted to get those two on board, especially now with a couple of months to go till the end of the season because it's important. It's important for them to get to grips with what it's like being a MLS professional, getting used to the environment for January when they come because it's the progression I want as the manager of the club as well as what the club want. "I think it's important for the growth of this club that we see players coming through regularly. Not just one year, every three or four years, but every year. They're added to our already talented young pool of players that we've got. I'm delighted to have them both on board." It's a delight matched by both players, as they grinned from ear to ear throughout their first media scrums as pros. So now that they've had a small amount of time for it to all sunk in, how does it feel to have signed their first pro contracts? "[Monday] was an amazing day really," Froese told us. "It's surreal to say the least. It's a dream come true but the work starts now." That was a view echoed by Bustos, although it's their hard work already in the Residency program that has seen them earn their pro deals at 18-years-old. But now that the pair have that MLS contract, neither is going to be resting on his laurels. "It's a good feeling because I've pretty much put the weight off my shoulders for how hard I've worked for the past 10, 12 months," Bustos told us. "To know that I've got myself in the team for next season is a good step for me because that then pushes me to fight for a spot on the squad. That realistically, at the end of the day, I want to be in the 18 man squad and sooner, rather than later, be in the 11 man squad." Both players have impressed at training this year and they got an initial reward back in May when they started the first leg of the Canadian Championship semi-final in Toronto. Although a spot in the second leg was deprived of them due to a Canadian national team training camp, the experience that both got in that game against TFC gave them a taste of playing for the Whitecaps first team and left them knowing they could perform at that level and wanting more. "The experience leaves me with the thought that I can be here and I could play with the squad," Bustos said. "It makes me believe that I can get in the 11 man squad and it shows me that the coaches believe in me. Whenever the coaches give me the chance to get out on the field again, then I'll hopefully take that chance and give them everything." Froese agrees and the match helped them realise that they've arrived in football and are playing with and against world class players now. "When I saw [Michael] Bradley playing in the World Cup, I was like, 'yeah, I've played against him'!," Froese joked. "Obviously it just shows that we can do it and we can hopefully play, so it just gives us confidence to go and do it when the chance comes." And Froese may be getting that chance in the very near future. With six games remaining, Robinson has no qualms about pitching the young star into the mix, whether the Whitecaps are in the heat of a playoff battle or not, and the 'Caps coach has no doubts that he's already capable of playing at MLS level. "Kianz is very much in contention," Robinson replied when asked if Froese would only play if the Caps were out of the playoffs. "We don't need to be eliminated or out of it for him to get the opportunity. I think you see today in training what he brings. "We know there's areas of his game that need a little bit more focus. I just spoke to him at length about what we're going to do in the offseason, but he's very much in the picture between now and the end of the season. And rightly so, because his performances and his training have fully deserved that. So don't be surprised if you see him soon." Signing a MLS contract is already a dream come to true for Froese, but to then play right away and have the chance to shape the club's playoff hopes is taking it to another level altogether, but one he's excited at the prospect of and ready for. "That would be unreal," Froese said. "That's my goal for right now. To hopefully get to go on a trip with the team and just be a part of the team and help in any way I can. Obviously that's earned on the field, so right now I'm just focussing on staying consistent and hopefully I get a chance." Unfortunately, Marco Bustos won't get his chance to shine this season, having only signed a pre-contract for MLS that won't kick in until January next year. It's disappointing, especially with the top form that he is in right now with the Residency, but taking the long term view, this may see him signing a Generation Adidas deal with Russell Teibert moving off his. And in light of Major League Soccer's weird roster rules at the best of times, the Whitecaps didn't want to take any chances. "As you know, with the expansion draft coming up, it's a tricky time for all MLS clubs," Robinson told us. "With the protection rule of only ten players, maybe bumping two of them up at a certain time will give the possibility of me maybe losing one or two players and I don't want to do that at this time because I'm building here. "I can get one of them on the roster, which is why I think Kianz is slightly more ready than Marco, even though Marco scored five goals on the weekend and beat six men to get his goal of the season contender." And what a goal that was. If anyone needed convincing of the talent Bustos has and what he offers the Whitecaps, they should have seen his second goal against San Juan on Sunday. It may have been at youth level but he picked the ball up 40 yards from goal and weaved his way past six players before coolly putting it away past the keeper. Has he scored a better goal than that? "I can't remember all the goals I've scored, but I think that's probably one of the best ones I've scored for the Whitecaps Residency," Bustos said. "Going through those bunch of guys and finishing was pretty cool." Bustos hit a hat-trick in Saturday's 3-2 win for the Whitecaps U18s over Seattle and followed that up with a brace against San Juan. With the minutes ticking down he had the chance to hit back to back hat-tricks, but could only look on as his shot cannoned off the left hand post. "It would have been nice to get the two hat-tricks but at the end of the day we won the game, so that's all that matters to me," Bustos told us when we ask him if he was disappointed at missing out on an impressive feat. Bustos has been given the captain's armband for the U18s this season and the attitude and knowledge sharing he has shown since training with the first team, played an important part in the decision to reward him with a MLS contract. The Whitecaps are always keen to see how the young players react when they go back into the Residency environment and Bustos' attitude has been exemplary. So how did the captaincy come about? "The two Residency coaches, Steve Meadley and Niall Thompson, had pulled me aside at the end of last season and asked me if I would take the honour of being the skipper," Bustos told us. "They talked to me a little bit about trying to build my leadership to make myself a better pro and I wanted to take the challenge. "Just to have that extra leadership skill in me and to lead by example and lead vocally, I think will make me a better player, so I wanted to take that opportunity to make myself better." He has already been leading by example, and not just with his five goals on the opening weekend, but Bustos hopes that he and his good friend, and fellow Manitoba boy, Froese can be good role models for other Canadian kids looking to make it in the pro ranks. "Knowing that me and Kianz have made it here will hopefully inspire other young kids to follow their dreams and to go forward and hopefully one day they could follow our footsteps," Bustos added. With more Residency homegrown talent on the horizon and pushing hard, I don't think he'll have to wait too long for that.
Whitecaps fans have been crying out for some new striking talent and although this might not be what they had in mind, and despite their young years, both players have already shown that they have what it takes to play at a higher level. The pair started Vancouver's Canadian Championship semi-final first leg in Toronto in May and acquitted themselves well. Both also saw PDL action for the Caps' this summer, contributing six goals between them (4 for Bustos and 2 for Froese). Last year saw both players represent Canada at the FIFA U17 World Cup in the UAE, playing in all three matches. Hailing from Winnipeg in Manitoba, Bustos made the move to the Whitecaps Residency program in September 2011 from his hometown side FC Northwest, after having a trial with Liverpool as a 14-year-old. He played the 2011/12 season for the Caps U16s and started the following season with them as well before current Whitecaps assistant coach Gordon Forrest took over the reigns of the U18s and immediately moved him up a level. It paid rich dividends for the Caps, with Bustos grabbing 14 goals in the regular season before going on a tear in the playoffs with 5 goals to send them back to Finals Week. Last season Bustos led the U18s in scoring with 19 goals and is captain of the U18 side in this, his final year in the program. And as we mentioned above, he kicked off the team's new season leading by example and scoring five goals in their first two matches (two of them penalties), where he has been playing as a striker. Froese is another prairie boy. Born in Havana, Cuba but growing up in Brunkild, Manitoba, Froese joined the Whitecaps Residency program in 2012, having previously trained with FC Edmonton. He scored four goals for the U18s in the 2012/13 season and followed that up with 12 regular season goals that saw him second on the team behind Bustos. Internationally, Froese has already earned a senior call-up to the Canadian national team, playing and scoring against Fort Lauderdale Strikers in a friendly in January. Most recently he was part of Canada's U20 squad at the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland. Both players have been training regularly, and impressed, with the Whitecaps MLS team since preseason and the hope was always to have them signed at some stage this year. When we asked Carl Robinson a couple of weeks ago about the prospect of adding them before the roster freeze, he wouldn't confirm but made his preference clear. "Maybe. Maybe, yes," Robinson told AFTN. "It would be good. Another two youngsters into the fray would be nice." Now he has them, although sadly it's only Froese that is available down the stretch. Too young and inexperienced to be thrown into a MLS playoff battle? Perhaps. But one thing I know about Bustos and Froese from watching them these past couple of years is that not only do they play with a confident swagger and without fear, but they can both score goals and haven't looked out of place playing against older opposition. Remember, "if you're good enough, you're old enough", and maybe, just maybe, the Whitecaps have added two players who are actually both.