Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi came out of nowhere to claim Player of the Month honors for June as awarded by the North American Soccer Reporters.
The 24-year-old midfielder established himself as a regular in the starting 11 and sparked a turnaround for Sporting with an undefeated 3-0-3 record during June. Zusi started four consecutive matches for the first time in his career and a total of five of his team’s six league games, while contributing two goals and three game-winning assists.
Of 22 media ballots, Zusi received 11 first-place nods while Andrés Mendoza (Columbus Crew), Eric Hassli (Vancouver Whitecaps), Mauro Rosales (Seattle Sounders), Roger Levesque (Seattle Sounders), Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake) and Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire) split the rest of the votes.
After playing a full 90 minutes in the opening of Livestrong Sporting Park, “Zeus” had his breakout match on June 12 in Frisco, Texas, where he registered two goals and a game-winning assist on a corner kick in a 4-1 road win over FC Dallas. One of his tallies was a stunning 40-yard free kick — a Goal of the Week nominee — in a match that will be looked upon as a potential turning point for Sporting.
Just five days later, he assisted on the first-ever goal at the new state-of-the-art stadium on June 17 in a 1-0 win over visiting San Jose Earthquakes. His free kick delivery was converted by rookie C.J. Sapong for the second of Sporting’s three victories in June.
On June 25 he set up yet another game-winning goal, delivering a corner kick that resulted in the decisive strike that broke a 1-1 tie at Livestrong Sporting Park against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Now in his third year in the league, Zusi has shown off an accurate and powerful right foot, becoming a set-piece specialist for Sporting KC. Each of his three assists this year — all game-winners — have come on set pieces and only LA Galaxy star David Beckham has more game-winning helpers.