Kah: Bustos Can Make Impact At MLS Level
When Pa-Modou Kah first arrived at Pacific FC, it took less than a month for attacking midfielder Marco Bustos to commit for the west coast Canadian Premier League side. The 24-year-old finished his first season in Pacific colours with five goals and three assists after just ten games, leaving Kah confident that the tricky-footed attacker could make an impact at the MLS level.
Bustos first arrived to the Isle on the back of a stellar individual season for Valour FC, where he scored eight goals (one of which is the second-fastest goal in league history) and contributed three assists for Rob Gale. He and Kah aimed for double-digit performances across both categories, though the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately forced a short season format that prevented such – though to be fair, he looked on course to have made that happen if the season ran a regular length.
The midfielder has a tight-knit connection with Kah which began back in their Whitecaps days and has progressed quite well in the dynamic of a player-to-head-coach environment. Kah describes Bustos as an ‘unstoppable’ force at the CPL level, stating that this year’s campaign has provided curious eyes with some receipts that he has what it takes to perform at a higher level.
He has the hunger, the desire, and passion to want to get better every day. When you have that, you become unstoppable. He has taken it to him, that he wants to go to the higher level which he does have and which he proved a little bit in this tournament.Pa-Modou Kah
At The Island Games, Marco scored five goals and contributed three assists, with perhaps the most important goal of them all being the stunning left-footed strike against FC Edmonton which brought Pacific FC to its first-ever postseason berth. It showed patient buildup, good positional awareness, and a deft finishing touch.
The 24-year-old also put in perhaps one of the best ever individual CPL performances during the club’s final game of the season against the Halifax Wanderers, contributing two goals and two assists as the Tridents sunk their costal rivals in a 5-0 statement match.
Those consistent performances earned him a nomination for the Canadian Premier League Player of the Year award alongside Forge FC captain Kyle Bekker and Trinidad and Tobago international Akeem Garcia. Of course, it comes as no surprise that Kah believes the soapstone carving should go to his 24-year-old playmaker:
When you talk about MVP, not only did he score goals but he created goals. That’s why when you look at MVP, that’s what you people should look at. It’s easy to say this team won, but have they impacted the game as much as all the players did? It’s easy to score penalties, but did they create for the team, did they provide assists, all of this stuff for me – when I lookk at MVP, I’m not looking at all the goals, but I’m looking at ‘is he actually providing in all of the areas for the team to be successful’?Pa-Modou Kah
While rumours have sprung up that Forge FC captain Kyle Bekker could be reunited with coach Marc Dos Santos at the Whitecaps, the murmur that the MLS may be beckoning for Bustos has been much quieter. Still, Kah is confident that the 24-year-old midfielder is playing at a level where a jump to Major League Soccer isn’t a dubious suggestion:
I don’t think the MLS is a far fetch for Marcos. He’s been in the MLS environment at a very young, early age. I think the difference there and now is that he didn’t understand what it was to be there, and now he understands what it takes to be there and stay there.Pa-Modou Kah
It was nine years ago when the Vancouver Whitecaps first took notice of the midfielder, bringing him in to their academy system from his native Winnipeg. In 2013, the creative attacker put forth a 19 goal season in the USSDA before moving up to the Whitecaps U-23 PDL squad for his next campaign, where he scored four goals in just seven appearances.
It was then that the Whitecaps brought him up to the first team, with Bustos making his professional debut in the 2014 Canadian Championship against Toronto FC. He made his MLS debut the following year, but ultimately only made 13 appearances across three years for the side: 4 in MLS, 4 in the Voyageurs Cup, and 5 in the Champions League. Between those first team opportunities, he spent most of his time in the USL with the Whitecaps 2.
He re-signed with the Whitecaps in 2017 on a three-year deal with club options running all the way up to 2021, but just one season later the midfielder and the MLS side agreed to mutually part ways. Three years on, it appears Bustos is putting in the kind of performances that would make the 24-year-old an appealing budget option for an MLS side, with Kah adamant that he can make a solid impact at that level if given the opportunity:
When a player works hard for it, it will show. A lot of people say ‘ah, he doesn’t have the experience’, but what people forget is that nobody has experience. It’s something that you gain over time, and the only way that you gain it over time is by playing. It’s easy to say you don’t know, but you will only know if you play him or try him in there. I do know with regards to some [MLS] wingers that are around, that he would definitely make an impact. I have no doubt it.Pa-Modou Kah
Kah spent several years playing at the Major League Soccer level himself, with the former Norwegian international accumulating 40 league appearances for the Portland Timbers before the Whitecaps signed him in 2015. His playing career finished there after 30 league appearances, and it’s also where his coaching career got its start.
Should an MLS team approaching the club for Bustos, Kah says that Pacific FC would openly explore the opportunity to move the player to a larger platform and wouldn’t stand in the way of such opportunity.
That means that we are doing the right thing if our players are being looked at. That is a great thing, and we would not stand in the way of a player who wanted to keep developing and if we feel that his development requires him to move to another club that is better than us, that can provide him another bigger platform, that is something that we as a club and as players will definitely explore.Pa-Modou Kah
So far only one player has made the CPL-to-MLS jump, and that’s former Cavalry FC man Joel Waterman. After getting some Champions League appearances of his own earlier this year, the 24-year-old spent most of the season on the sideline before a recent breakthrough, starting the last three matches in a row under Thierry Henry and earning Videotron man of the match honours in the club’s latest match against Nashville SC.
At the Canadian Premier League level it’s no secret that Marco Bustos is one of the most highly-compensated midfielders, though there’s always the possibility that another Canadian Premier League side puts in a competitive offer for the star midfielder – that’s part of what brought Marco away from Valour FC, after all.
A similar situation appears to have unfolded over at York9 FC, with Joseph Di Chiara following an individually successful Island Games campaign with an intra-league transfer move. When asked if Kah had begun contract discussions with Marco regarding the next season in order to prevent a similar situation occurring, he stated that he wasn’t worried about another intra-league roster move in Marco’s future:
With Marcos, he knows where we stand. He knows what he has here, and he knows the culture that we’re building that he’s part of. I have no worries about any other CPL team coming in, because I honestly think this is the place that he wants to be at himself, so that’s not something I worry about.Pa-Modou Kah
While Pacific FC hasn’t provided any official contract update regarding Marco Bustos, Kah appears confident that the 24-year-old will return to Pacific FC barring an approach from a higher-level playing opportunity. If that happens, Bustos clearly has a blessing to jump up to a bigger stage. In the more short-term future, he’ll be hoping to collect a CPL MVP Award before a potential return to Canada’s domestic league next year.
Pacific FC recently re-signed five players for the 2021 Canadian Premier League season, while also confirming that 22-year-old midfielder Zach Verhoven has departed the club to pursue another playing opportunity.
More discussion with Pa-Modou Kah regarding the 2021 Pacific FC roster will come later this week.
Header Image Photo Credit: Canadian Premier League / Chant Photography