Graham Zusi is a humble, team-first kind of guy, so it was no surprise when he tried to deflect the credit for his thunderbolt goal against FC Dallas.
With Sporting Kansas City leading 2-1 in the 55th minute, Zusi took all of Pizza Hut by surprise, most notably FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. Instead of curling a ball into the box from a free kick near midfield, the third-year midfielder drove his foot through the ball from at least 45 yards out, beating a scrambling Hartman and helping send Sporting to a 4-1 victory.
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But according to Zusi, it wasn’t even his idea. That credit goes to Davy Arnaud. He just executed it.
“I was over the ball and actually waiting for everyone to get up the field so we had some numbers up top,” Zusi said in a phone interview following the match. “Davy, as he was walking past, just kind of whispered to me to take it. I took his advice and it paid off.”
It paid off doubly for Sporting Kansas City (2-6-3) as Zusi scored his first two goals of the season and Luke Sassano and Aurelien Collin recorded their first ever MLS goals to send a streaking Dallas side to a 4-1 defeat at Pizza Hut Park. It was Kansas City’s first victory since opening day on March 19 and broke an 11-game winless streak in league play.
Making the result even more impressive was the fact Kansas City started the game without four of their five top-choice strikers and were coming off a energy-sapping draw against Chicago on Thursday in the first game at Livestrong Sporting Park. Not to mention the fact that the Hoops hadn’t lost in nine games.
But neither those circumstances nor stifling heat seemed to phase the visitors, who also weathered a red card to Milos Stojcev, as manager Peter Vermes altered his formation and lineup and watched his players respond to the challenge.
“Last Thursday night was a big night for us, and it was hot and a quick turnaround to come down here,” Vermes said. “I think in all aspects the guys performed extremely well and got the job done. They were focused for 90-plus minutes and stayed with the game plan.”
Leading that charge was Zusi, who opened the scoring with curling shot to the far post in the 28th minute and covered acres of ground to help keep Dallas out of rhythm. All in all, it was the kind of game Vermes has been waiting for from his young midfielder after giving him four-straight league starts to find his feet.
“I’m really happy for Zusi because I think that what we’ve been seeing in him all along is that he has the ability to do what he did tonight,” Vermes said. “He just needs to take advantage of the opportunities that he has, and, more importantly, be confident that he can do what he did tonight. A lot of his offensive game came out tonight. On top of that, he worked [hard] defensively.”
So did his teammates, who kept Dallas under wraps apart from one collective lapse in concentration that allowed Brek Shea to weave through the Kansas City defense for a highlight-reel goal. And even that was only the second goal Kansas City has allowed in their last 450 minutes in all competitions.
“We feel good,” Vermes said. “Since the Seattle game our shape has been very good tactically even though we lost that one. I’ve felt good about where we were going for a while. It was just getting something to roll our way.”