The latest reports out of San Pedro Sula suggest that Graham Zusi may have earned a starting role in the US national team’s World Cup qualifier against Honduras on Wednesday afternoon (4 pm ET on beIN Sport, live chat on MLSsoccer.com),
If true, the Sporting Kansas City midfielder’s involvement would signal a hint of attacking boldness from coach Jurgen Klinsmann – and mark the latest gong on Zusi’s dizzyingly rapid climb from wanna-be to regular in the USMNT picture.
Not that he’s ready to look at it that way himself, though.
“I don’t want to consider myself someone who’s an automatic bid in – that complacency can get you on the outside looking in pretty quickly,” Zusi told MLSsoccer.com before the US squad departed Miami for Honduras on Monday. “So I’m just looking at the here and now and trying to improve every opportunity that I can, and make it difficult for them not to bring me in.”
He does admit to growing more at ease with every international call-up.
“Every time I get a chance to come in with these guys, I’m getting more and more comfortable on the field and off, really,” he said. “Every opportunity is a good one and I feel like I’m growing every time.”
Zusi built on last year’s encouraging displays in a US uniform by training overseas with West Ham United and taking a leading role, at Klinsmann’s encouragement, in the USMNT January camp. That’s helped him stay sharp over the MLS offseason and further impressed the Yanks veterans who have watched him develop into a strong option for the rigors of the CONCACAF Hexagonal round ahead.
“Graham Zusi’s been brilliant for us,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “Now we’ll see what it’s like when he gets thrown in the cauldron. We have no doubts about him but that’s all part of it.”
With Landon Donovan taking time away from the game to consider his future, a gap has opened in the USMNT midfield for a wide player capable of venturing forward with creativity while also tracking back with energy. Zusi has proven well-suited to fill that need, looking comfortable whether hugging the touchlines or pinching centrally, and always on the lookout for a chance to deliver quality service.
Should he be handed such a role Wednesday, he’ll likely tangle with Roger Espinoza, a former SKC teammate who has recently made his own step up to a new level in his career and now patrols the center of the park for Honduras as well as England’s Wigan Athletic.
“It’s exciting to play against Roger,” Zusi said. “He’s doing so well right now – it’s just an exciting time for him and for us to really see his development. In the past year, he’s really matured as a player. So it’s going to be a lot of fun playing on the other side of him.
“I haven’t played against him too much at all, so I’m kind of looking forward to that. He’s a guy that’s just a handful on the field to play against. I’m sure it will be a battle going up against him.”