SKC Notebook: Zusi's birthday presents to himself
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Soony Saad turned 19 on Wednesday and he celebrated with his first career MLS goal in Sporting Kansas City’s 3-1 win over the Portland Timbers.
But Saad wasn’t the only Sporting player to celebrate a birthday with some fireworks Wednesday night.
Just hours before turning 25, Graham Zusi scored his second brace of the season to help Kansas City knock off Portland 3-1, adding another long-range strike to his career highlight reel in the process. The third-year midfielder now has five goals and four assists on the season. Both totals are career highs.
“It’s a nice little birthday present to myself,” Zusi said. “I’m going to try to enjoy it.”
Kansas City’s home crowd certainly did, and manager Peter Vermes went out of his way to call the hit an “absolute bomb” during his postgame press conference. In fact, even Timbers manager John Spencer found time to lavish praise on Zusi.
“I think it was a super strike,” Spencer said. “The kid strikes a tremendous ball. We’ve seen him do it in Dallas. We’ve seen him do it today. Quite a talent to be honest with you.”
The story at the other end was not as positive. But it wasn’t anything that Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen did.
During the celebrations following Zusi’s 25th-minute golazo, Nielsen was struck below the eye by a projectile thrown from the stands. The object turned out to be the head of an Omar Bravo bobblehead, thousands of which had been distributed to fans prior to the match.
“We scored the goal, and I went down to have a drink,” Nielsen said. “I put the bottle down, picked up my head and then [something hit me]. I thought, ‘What are you doing?’ I thought I walked into the post. Then I looked and the post was far away.”
The 34-year-old Dane spent the better part of five minutes receiving medical attention on the field as the crowd of 15,271 waited for signs that Sporting’s goalkeeper wasn’t seriously injured.
Though he suffered a cut under his eye and received a purple shiner by which to remember the incident, Nielsen finished the game.
Police arrested the two men who allegedly threw bobbleheads onto the field from a few rows behind the goal after stadium security staff and police identified the suspected culprits after reviewing HD camera footage.
Nielsen downplayed the incident on his end. He said it wasn’t the first time he’s had things thrown onto the field at him during a game and was just happy there was no serious damage apart from a nasty cut and some bruising.
“It’s not a big deal,” he said. “I’m good.”