KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Graham Zusi had hoped to be getting ready for the US national team’s match with Canada, not the US Open Cup vs. Colorado.
But in the two games since his departure from Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad, the Sporting Kansas City midfielder has gone right back to showing why Klinsmann called him into his second camp of the year.
Zusi recorded his team-leading seventh assist – one behind 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne DeRosario of D.C. United for the league lead – in last weekend’s 2-1 victory over San Jose, then turned around two days later and gave Sporting a shot of energy and possession off the bench in a 3-2 USOC win over Orlando City FC.
“[The national team] isn’t even on my mind right now,” Zusi said after the San Jose game. “I’m just focused on the matches here.”
But manager Peter Vermes, a former US international himself, would bet otherwise.
“I’d be surprised if he wasn’t taking it personally,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. “You should take it personally, and you should have a little bit of a chip on your shoulder. But I’m not going to say he came out with a different way of playing. I saw the same fire.”
While missing the cut was disappointing, Zusi could take consolation from the fact that Klinsmann expects to see him in a US kit again.
“I talked to Jurgen for a while about some things, about where I am as a player,” said Zusi, who earned his first two caps in January and scored the game-winner in a 1-0 friendly win over Panama. “I agreed with pretty much everything. He said I’m pretty much knocking on the door, and I just need to keep playing hard and trying to get better.”
That’s just what Zusi has done and will continue to do, according to Vermes.
“I have a lot of confidence in Zusi,” said Vermes. “Mentally, he’s a very strong guy. I think he’s a winner, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he finds himself on the national team. He’s that good, and he’s that strong mentally. You can’t deny the way he’s playing."
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.