SANTA CLARA, Calif. – When this month began, Graham Zusi was a teammate twice over of Dom Dwyer, both professionally with Sporting Kansas City and internationally as part of the US squad at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
But when Zusi dresses for the Gold Cup final on Wednesday night against Jamaica (9:30 pm ET; FS1, Univision, UDN in the US | TSN 1/3/4/5 in Canada), Dwyer won’t be alongside. And when Zusi returns to Children’s Mercy Park, there will be another empty stall where the gregarious Brit-turned-American used to sit.
“It is strange,” Zusi told MLSsoccer.com after the US conducted a brief walkthrough at Levi’s Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t think it’ll fully hit until you’re back in there and he’s not in the locker room anymore. I guess it’s all part of the business side of it.”
Dwyer was one of six players sent home by US coach Bruce Arena after the group stage – despite the fact that the new citizen scored in each of his first two matches wearing the red, white and blue. Perhaps Arena had an inkling of the deal, which first broke into the wider public consciousness on Sunday when ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman tweeted the Lions had been “aggressively pursuing” Dwyer for a week.
“A bit, yeah,” Zusi said when asked if he was shocked by the move. “You hear the rumblings about it the past couple of days, and you know that it’s a possibility, but it never really prepares you for what happens.”
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Dwyer, who was drafted out of the University of South Florida in 2012 and played for Orlando City on loan from Sporting in 2013 during the Lions’ USL days.
“I think it’ll be a good thing for Dom,” Zusi said. “I think he’s pretty happy with it, obviously with a bit of a heavy heart, leaving a terrific organization and fanbase.”
Dwyer leaves behind a team that sits second in the Western Conference and has a US Open Cup semifinal against the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 9, waters they’ll have to navigate without the second-leading scorer in club history.
As SKC boss Peter Vermes pointed out in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, sometimes longer-term needs have to be balanced against short-term ones – a sentiment with which Zusi concurred.
“It’s an opportunity for us to better our roster as well, with the amount of allocation [money] that we have,” Zusi said.