Graham Zusi brings confidence, scoring touch back to Sporting KC after US qualifiers
“It's not just one person's confidence,” Zusi told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “I think the team, right now, is playing with a lot of confidence. I think it showed this weekend. That was the best 90 minutes we've had in quite some time.”
Team achievement aside, though, Saturday's 2-0 home victory over the previously-unbeaten Montreal Impact featured plenty of highlight-reel moments from the All-Star winger in his return from two strong World Cup qualifying performances with the US national team.
His late insurance score, which earned a nomination for Goal of the Week honors, stands out the most on the stat sheet. But that sequence, which began with a perfectly-placed pass from Benny Feilhaber, continued with Zusi fending off a challenge from Karl Ouimette and ended with a seeing-eye chip between Ouimette and keeper Troy Perkins, wasn't the only time Zusi bossed an Impact defense that had given up just two goals in its first four games.
“He's playing with a lot of confidence, but he's also a very good player,” manager Peter Vermes said. “His game is definitely evolving, and the confidence is allowing him to do some of the things that he's progressed in on the field.”
Zusi left Jeb Brovsky on the pitch with a quick cut in the corner on one sequence, juggled the ball away from Patrice Bernier at the byline in another, and had several chances to pad his assist total go begging when shots went just off-target.
“That's just because the guys on the team were out there buzzing around,” Zusi said. “You have to look at everyone's performance. Chance [Myers] and Seth [Sinovic] were flying out of the back, and Benny was slipping people through. When the team is performing that way, that's when the individual stuff can come out. We were buzzing, and it becomes a lot of fun when you're putting a team under that much pressure.”
Vermes agreed with that assessment, adding that Zusi and several new key teammates – including Feilhaber, who recorded his first two assists of the year on Saturday – have just needed time to adjust to each other.
“We have some different players now, and that allows him to play a little differently,” he said. “I think that will continue to evolve as they get to know each other a little more, and we just keep tweaking our way of playing.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.