After injury-marred season in Portland, Sal Zizzo loving life on the wing with Sporting KC
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sal Zizzo is free to move about the pitch in Kansas City, and he couldn't be happier.
“I love it,” Sporting Kansas City's new winger told reporters on Thursday, during the club's weekly news conference. “I think the style I like to play is exactly the style that we play here. I just like to hang out wide, get the ball, go at guys and make some runs behind as well.
“I think that winger position suits me best, the freedom to play on the field with not so many restrictions brings the best out of me.”
Zizzo's teammates are happy with the results of that freedom as well, especially after his two-assist performance – including a perfectly threaded cross that set up Graham Zusi for a tap-in and a 1-0 lead – in last weekend's 3-2 away victory against Colorado.
Benny Feilhaber, who scored an equalizer off a feed from Zizzo just 45 seconds after the Rapids went up 2-1 on their second penalty kick of the day, put it simply: “Sal's a beast. He gave me a great ball.”
The cross to Zusi was even better, beginning when Zizzo won a footrace to Paulo Nagamura's through ball and ending with Zusi tapping in Zizzo's low ball through traffic from a tight angle.
“That's what I like to do as a winger,” Zizzo said. “I pride myself more off assists. That's what I look at as me playing well. It was a good one. It felt like a tighter angle when I watched it on camera, but as the play developed it looked like I had a bigger gap to put it through.”
When Sporting traded for Zizzo in the offseason, bringing him over from Portland, fans didn't know what to expect from a player who had been limited by injury to 10 matches in 2013. Zizzo, for his part, wondered how he'd fit into a tight-knit club that returned nearly everyone from the MLS Cup-winning roster of a year ago.
“I didn't really know what to expect,” he said. “I didn't know coming in that the style was really my style. I could only hope that it would all click, which I feel that it has.”
Zizzo's adjustment to Kansas City's “Sporting fit” requirements has also come quickly, by most standards. He has appeared in all four of Sporting's league matches, with three starts and 287 minutes played.
And with the way that Zizzo has come along on both the style and fitness fronts, he's likely to be back in the XI on Saturday when Real Salt Lake visit Sporting Park (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live) for the first time since that 2013 title game.
“It's something I was able to develop pretty quickly, the fitness aspect,” Zizzo said. “In the preseason, I think we did well building up every game, up to 90 minutes, and I feel the most fit I've felt in my life.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.