KANSAS CITY, Mo. – His red-carpet turn at the ESPY Awards is over. Next up for Graham Zusi, and more important to the Sporting Kansas City star: an away date with the Claret-and-Cobalt.
Zusi, who was nominated for Best MLS Player but lost out to New York's Thierry Henry on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, will rejoin Sporting on Friday in Utah for Saturday's matchup of conference leaders against West front-runners Real Salt Lake (10 pm ET, MLS LIVE). With 37 points, RSL are in front of the Supporters' Shield chase, four ahead of East-leading SKC.
And before he left, the star winger/midfielder – who wore a suit designed and made by teammate Aurélien Collin at the awards ceremony – said the chance to close the overall points race would be his main focus all week.
“Obviously, my mind is on the game this weekend,” Zusi told reporters earlier this week. “It's a great opportunity for us to kind of make a push for the Supporters' Shield ... If we win we'll only be a point below them. It's a chance for us to further ourselves.”
That outlook is why Sporting had no problem letting Zusi go to the ESPYs, manager Peter Vermes said, even though it will cost him three days of training with the Eastern Conference leaders.
“Those kinds of things are going to come with the position he's in,” Vermes said after a recent training session. “He's a pretty high-profile player. He's a special guy. He knows these things are going to happen. The thing I don't ever have to worry about with Graham is whether or not he's going to take care of himself and be ready for a match. So not training a day here or there is not going to kill him.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.