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What Graham Zusi does for Sporting Kansas City…beyond the obvious, that is

Jul 8, 2013, 8:12 PM EDT

New England Revolution v Sporting Kansas City Getty Images

You only need to read the box score to see that Graham Zusi clearly contributed to his team’s 2-1 win Sunday in Chicago – a huge result, this win on the road, for a team that had managed just one lone victory since May.

The goal scoring and the goal arranging have arrived at reliable and valuable rates for more than two years now. But clearly, the U.S. international’s contributions are more than goals and assists. He wouldn’t be a first-choice U.S. international now if it was just about the net out.

For me, his comprehensive skill, hard-wired experience and all-around know-how were all captured in one 20-second sequence in the first half.

On one end, Zusi successfully prevented Chicago’s Jalil Anibaba from successfully getting off a cross. His defensive tracking, assisted by a big engine and devotion to fitness that always sees Zusi testing out among the higher end of the curve, is always dependable. And while his one-one-one defending may not be quite that of something like Chance Myers, it’s more than enough for someone who is generally assigned to the field for his attacking, not his tackling.

A few seconds later, Zusi is on the ball again and moving through the midfield. It’s what he does at that moment that was most impressive: he paused. And then he played a nice, safe pass laterally.

Zusi knew intuitively at that moment that what his team needed was a little possession, a little break from defending. Having fallen behind, 2-0, the home team was increasingly grabbing hold of the game. Zusi correctly adjudged that what his team needed at that moment wasn’t another goal. (Well, obviously any team can always use another goal … so maybe it’s more precise to say his team didn’t need another rush at goal that was far more likely to produce a change of possession than a third goal.)

What his team needed at that moment was possession, a little time on the ball to provide a break from the defending, to make Chicago chase for a little while instead of the other way around.

I know it sounds obvious – but so, so many players would have kept steaming forward, all guts and glory, but not nearly enough thoughtful approach.

By the way, all of this happened along the left, which is the other point to make. Zusi usually patrols areas center or right. But being this versatile is another of the assets that has made him such a fixture for club and country.

  1. tariencole - Jul 8, 2013 at 8:47 PM

    Indeed, it was after Zusi was shifted to center that the Sporting essentially took Chicago out of the game by preventing them from maintaining any sort of possession, while keeping ample amounts in the attacking third. He may not be a defensive midfielder, but if he continues to develop his ability to read the game to go with his physical attributes, he may be a perfect free-role MF. One who has motor enough to cover his shift both ways and still pop up anywhere in the attack.

    That would be DP worthy without the ‘retention money’ bruhaha.

  2. jelliot1978 - Jul 8, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    He also had a very nice dive to draw a yellow card. Also got a yellow just before that for getting in the side line official’s face. While he has talent and is definitely a player worth watching those 2 plays are very negative to me. Diving is something that needs to be reduced the world over especially on the international level.

  3. youreallmorons - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:45 PM

    Easy there with your Graham Zusi man crush. You are talking about a 26 year old who is only getting national team minutes because of Landon Donovans sabatical. He is a glorified Kyle Beckerman playing in the MLS which is the equivalent to triple A baseball. Do you really think he will take minutes from Donovan after the Gold Cup? The answer is no.

    If he truly had any sort of future potential we would hear his name connected to some team in Europe during the transfer window and there is no way thats happening. Lets keep things in perspective here and realize that he has reached his full potential and is a career MLS’er who will be at best a late substitute at next years World Cup. He might do well in the MLS but he will no doubt be a liability against the best players in the world.

    • newmanggrrr - Oct 15, 2013 at 11:35 PM

      Did you watch Zusi in last 2 WC matches? You really are a moron.

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