A homecoming of sorts: Maryland alum Graham Zusi excited to play for USMNT in Washington, DC
WASHINGTON – Most, if not all, of the players in the current US national team group preparing to face Germany on Sunday (2:30 pm ET, ESPN2/UniMas, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) have played at RFK Stadium, or at least spent time in the nation's capital.
For Graham Zusi, however, it's essentially a homecoming.
“It's great to be in an area where some sights and sounds are familiar,” he told reporters on Friday, just before the USMNT's training session at American University. “I'm sure I'll be able to see some former Terps in the crowd and catch up with some old buddies.
“It should be an awesome atmosphere at RFK, and a fun match.”
Zusi plays his club soccer at Sporting Kansas City and is an Orlando, Fla., native. But he made his name in the game as a college standout at the University of Maryland, located a few Metro stops north of the District in College Park, Md., where longtime head coach Sasho Cirovski has built the Terrapins – or Terps, as Zusi and everyone associated with the school calls them – men's soccer program into one of the most consistent incubators of talent in the United States.
In fact, Zusi is one of four Terps on the current USMNT roster along with Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson and Maurice Edu (who has been sidelined by a sports hernia and is unavailable for the near future).
“That really says it all,” said Zusi of the strong Maryland contingent, which he believes is a strong tribute to Cirovski's superlative skills.
“Just the environment that he provides for his players is a great stepping stone into that professional atmosphere,” he added. “From the facilities to the training sessions to the team, he really makes a professional atmosphere there, and doesn't skimp on anything. Credit to him for putting all of us, really, where we are now.”
It's possible that all three of the Terps available to US coach Jurgen Klinsmann will see the field on Sunday, though Gonzalez and Goodson struggled against Belgium on Wednesday and are unlikely to start the match together.
Zusi admitted on Friday that the 4-2 thumping in Cleveland has the Yanks feeling “urgency to get back on the field, to make up for some wrongs,” but he wrote off some of Belgium's excellence to individual errors rather than collective ones.
“Some of the mistakes we made were individual mistakes that can be rectified pretty easily,” he said. “It wasn't necessarily a whole team breakdown but just a couple individual plays that we can learn from pretty quickly – definitely defensively.
“But looking offensively, we put some decent stuff together, and got two goals, which for a US squad should be enough to get the win.”
As a wide midfielder, Zusi also took his share of responsibility for Wednesday's lack of attacking incisiveness, which extended striker Jozy Altidore's long USMNT scoring drought, a curious contrast to his prolific season at club level with AZ Alkmaar.
“That's definitely part of our game, is getting the ball to those outside wingers and the overlapping defenders as well, to provide that service,” said Zusi, who spent the Belgium match on the right wing, of Altidore. “If we're not doing that, then it's on us, really. We need to provide him with some better service in the box so he can finish it off.”
He also dismissed the idea that Altidore himself needs to improve his movement in and around the opposition's goal.
“No, I think he's done a great job of putting himself in dangerous areas,” said Zusi.