Bustos joins Valour in hopes of ‘enjoying’ Canadian Premier League

WINNIPEG — Marco Bustos wanted to bring the joy back to his game, and indirectly, his life in general.

And so, what better place to do that than in good ol’ hometown and for the pied-piper of Valour FC, Rob Gale?

Bustos, the 23-year-old Winnipegger who officially joined Valour FC earlier this week, met with the media on Friday after what has been a whirlwind few days. He was a member of the OKC Energy of the United Soccer League just last week, but after discussions with the club there and negotiations between their coach, his agent and Gale, a deal was worked out that brought Bustos back home.

“It came to a decision where I needed to enjoy my football,” said Bustos. “I needed to come to a place where I could express myself, even just smiling, being home, being around familiar faces.

“I’ve worked with Rob before many times. I think it was a decision to get the best out of me, to come here and be around these guys, be around Rob again and just get the joy out of it.”

Bustos had been a regular with the Energy last year, after spending some time with Atlético Zacatepec in Mexico, but was limited to just one start so far this year and was primarily being used as a substitute.

Valour FC didn’t have to compensate OKC to bring Bustos into their fold, although Gale did say of his discussion with the Energy coach: “He said, ‘He’s our best attacking player.’ I don’t know how it came about, but thank you Oklahoma. I may go back and visit their coach and buy him a pint at the end of the season.”

Bustos gives Gale & Co. another scoring threat up front. A product of FC Northwest for four years, he left Winnipeg to join the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy when he was 15. He made his MLS debut with the Whitecaps in October of 2015 before being loaned to OKC.

He also has national team experience with Canada’s U-17 squad, appearing in the FIFA U-17 World Cup and played for Gale on the U-20 team.

“He was an early target for us as soon as we started drawing up players that we wanted to bring in and play the brand and style of football we wanted,” explained Gale. “Obviously, being a Winnipegger and Manitoban and with the quality he brings, he was always a target for us but he was on contract elsewhere and we had to be respectful of that.

“His quality is there to see. He scored down in Mexico … he’s scored everywhere he goes. He’s a great attacking threat. It’s just whether the coaches put their trust and faith in him and I have trust and faith in him and I have since he was 11 years old. I’m delighted he’s in my dressing room and we’ll bring the best out of him again.”

Gale said Bustos could be available as early as Saturday’s home date against HFX Wanderers, especially with Michael Petrasso and Josip Golubar having left Wednesday’s loss to Cavalry FC in Calgary with injuries.

Even if he doesn’t get into action on Saturday, expect Bustos to have a huge throng of supporters at every Valour FC match.

“Everything happened so quick and I couldn’t really tell people I was coming back because nothing had been released yet to the media,” said Bustos. “I just got on the road … I got home and everyone is really excited. I’ve got tons of family and friends coming out to the game now.

“It will be exciting times… 10 years ago I had no idea there would be a pro team (in Winnipeg) or even a pro league. I’m excited to be back home playing in front of friends and family and representing my hometown.”