While in Florida promoting and helping with Gatorade’s Unreal Around the World contest, a program that provides select winners for a once-in-a-lifetime trip around the globe to experience trips in either Italy, England, Spain, Argentina, or Brazil with clubs like Liverpool, Barcelona and Boca Juniors, Graham Zusi took time to talk to World Soccer Talk.
Our conversation covered a number of topics, from Zusi’s World Cup with the United States, his famous “San Zusi” goal against Panama, and his new long-term contract with Sporting Kansas City.
Along with Matt Besler, who Zusi picked as a favorite teammate of his during his career, Zusi signed a Designated Player contract with MLS club Sporting Kansas City in the aftermath of the 2014 World Cup, and in the face of renewed interest from overseas.
When asked how close he ever came to leaving MLS, Zusi said that he, “looked at it, but I was under contract and no one came in to buy me.”
Zusi trained at West Ham in the winter of 2012, but he’s settled in Kansas City, at the only MLS club he’s ever played for. Zusi was in KC before the soccer boom that has made the city quite possibly the ultimate American soccer success story.
“I consider myself lucky to have seen both sides of it,” said Zusi. “I was there when we were playing in a Minor League Baseball stadium, maybe getting four thousand fans per game if we were lucky, to now playing in the best stadium and best fans in the country.”
The winger, who scored a terrific goal in KC’s hard-fought victory over Toronto FC at the weekend, fell back on the cliché that he’s “trying to get better every day,” when asked what his ceiling is in the sport, but noted that he feels like, “I’m at a club where that is happening.”
Zusi praised his club coach with Kansas City, saying, “Peter (Vermes) always prides himself in having the fittest team in MLS, year after year.” Zusi noted the similarities between Vermes and Jurgen Klinsmann, saying, “I actually think they’re very similar, in terms of their attention to detail focus on the little things.”
On the subject of fitness being an emphasis, Zusi stated, “Jurgen knows that US isn’t at the level of the best teams in the world, and fitness can help make up for that.”
Zusi’s most famous moment over Klinsmann, despite delivering the winning assist on one of the biggest goals in US soccer history to John Brooks against Ghana, was the goal that knocked Panama out of the World Cup and saved Mexico’s qualifying hopes in a game that was little more than an exhibition for the US.