The USMNT was playing some pleasing soccer during their memorable run at the 2014 World Cup. Having played a big role in Brazil last summer, Graham Zusi has been sidelined with a variety of injuries in the year since. After playing in 10 games for the U.S. in 2014, the Sporting Kansas City midfielder has yet to appear in a match for the USA in 2015. Now fully fit, Zusi is back in the mix with the MNT just in time for the year’s biggest undertaking, the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“It feels fantastic to be back,” Zusi said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in with the guys, and walking into the hotel and seeing some familiar faces was really nice. It’s been a little frustrating with a slew of injuries for the past six months, but I feel good now and it’s great to be back.”
The Orlando, Florida, native first made an impact on the international scene during the final round of qualifying in 2013, providing the killer strike against Panama that knocked the Central American nation out of running for a spot at the 2014 World Cup.
The industrious midfielder then stepped up big as the U.S. navigated the “Group of Death” in Brazil. Zusi was the orchestrator behind two of the USA’s biggest goals: bending in the corner kick that John Brooks headed home in the final minutes to give the U.S. victory against Ghana, and setting up Clint Dempsey for the USA’s second goal in its 2-2 draw with Portugal .
If there’s a time when the MNT will need a difference maker in 2015, that time is now. Zusi will look to rise to the occasion again in the year’s marquee event when he makes his debut in this summer’s Gold Cup. And extra motivation to do well at the tournament lies in missed opportunities of the past.
“Unfortunately I missed out on the last Gold Cup, and it’s something that’s been on my mind for some time now. I’m really pumped to be back in this one, and there’s a lot on the line. We want to repeat as champions and qualify for the Confederations Cup, which will just be a great dress rehearsal in Russia ahead of the 2018 World Cup.”
There’s still one game for the United States before the Gold Cup kicks off, a July 3 friendly with Guatemala at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Zusi sees the game as a huge opportunity in front of another large pro-U.S. crowd.
“It’s acting as a tune-up game,” Zusi said.” Hopefully we can all click very quickly. Worst-case it’s a game to iron out some details, but we’re hoping to get a good win for the great fans here in Nashville.”