SBI USMNT Man of the Match: Graham Zusi

Graham Zusi

Photo by Mike Janosz/ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

On a night at Sporting Park in which it seemed the U.S. Men’s National Team would settle for a scoreless draw, it was fitting that the face of Sporting Kansas City came up with the game-winning goal.

Graham Zusi helped lift the U.S. to a 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Jamaica and assured the Americans would finish atop CONCACAF’s Hexagonal round for the third straight cycle on Friday night with a memorable goal in the 77th minute of the match. Zusi came off the bench at halftime to replace Landon Donovan and he injected a burst of energy and creativity into a stale U.S. attack even before scoring, making him SBI’s USMNT Man of the Match.

Other players who enjoyed strong performances in Kansas City on Friday night were fellow substitutes Edgar Castillo and Sacha Kljestan, goalkeeper Tim Howard and starting centerbacks Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler.

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What did you think of Zusi’s performance off the bench? How much of a difference do you think his insertion made? Think someone else should have won the Man of the Match award?

Share your thoughts below.

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103 Responses to SBI USMNT Man of the Match: Graham Zusi

  1. Shawn says:

    Zusi, hands down. His energy tilted the match into a US attacking one. Scored a goal, and created chances as well.

  2. Scott e Dio93 says:

    I give it to Kljestan.

    • Shawn says:

      I’m trying to figure out what movement Klejstan was involved in to merit the consideration. “Looking good on the ball” for 20mins is not MoM. It’s enough to move you from “not rated” to a “6.” I think he merited a 7, maybe. That’s it.

      Does it help his consideration for the 23? Sure. It was a good game. It wasn’t MoM.

      • Scott e Dio93 says:

        Tempo control. USNT was like a headless chicken, and Kljestan made USNT’s midfield calm and in control, both Mix and Bedoya bacame more creative (both were lifeless in the start) because of the centrelmidfield.

        Now, I am not against Kljestan being part 23 or favor, yet. I want players like : Kljestan, Boyd, Kevin Bacon or Brooks get some starts in games before making the final choice for Brazil.

        • Shawn says:

          I’ve no argument that he deserves consideration for the 23. But consideration for the 23 is not the same as MoM. And Tempo Control is a lot easier when the match gets tilted into the attacking end, which Zusi’s infectious hustle helped ensure.

          Sacha did some good things, something I never thought I’d say in the Bob Bradley days. He’s developed well. But I don’t see that he changed the match, as much as benefited from the change that was already made.

  3. Roundhead says:

    Maybe this will calm some of the haters down. I doubt it. great to see those two step up (Klejstan and Zusi). Glad Klinsman got my message and read it this time

  4. jermaine says:

    Hes still terrible.

  5. Neruda says:

    Mexico on the board. Rafa Marquez is captain so this is full on desperation time for El Tri. Canaleros need to try to hit on the counter. They’ve just been wasting time and hoofing up field. This is intense.

  6. Iggy says:

    Zusi is a class player. Tidy on the ball and gets in good positions. Well done!

  7. Nope says:

    MOTM was Castillo. He opened up the entire field. Beasley is so worried about his defense, and has lost so much pace getting forward, that he manages to kill the attack on the whole left side. As soon as Castillo came on he made two or three great runs all the way to the touchline and suddenly the whole field opened up. Space in the middle to set up Zusi’s goal and his own run to make the second.

    • wandmdave says:

      While I agree with you that Castillo usually offers a bit more going forward, you still have to factor in that Castillo was fresh and facing a gassed Jamaican winger. That has to help free him up to make those long runs more often. Either way its a moot point because despite the fact that I don’t trust Beasley as a defender he has shown better while defending than Castillo consistently.

      • cj says:

        That is were Castillo can really help this team. Fresh of the bench and can press a tired winger. Good to burn off time when ahead or if you need a goal.

        • Joamiq says:

          I think it’s likely that Johnson starts at LB in Brazil, which would allow Beasley to fill this role. Beasley still has wheels, and he’s still a pretty classy player in the attack. I don’t think Castillo makes sense as one of the 23 as of now.

          • Mueller says:

            What makes you say that? Beasley has started every game the past year at left back when available.

    • Joamiq says:

      Castillo was great getting forward, but he had almost nothing to do defensively, which helps him a lot since he himself admits he’s not a good defender. Plus he was running at a tired defense. Not at all a fair comparison with Beasley. Beasley not only had to worry more about the speedy Jamaican forwards, but he also got forward nicely. Rewatch it if you disagree. He picked his spots very well and was one of the few things the US attack had going for it in the first half. Also, you have the spacing effects backwards – Castillo had the space to get forward on the left because Zusi was shading toward the center and pulling the right side of Jamaica’s defense with him.

  8. Bubba says:

    I’d give it to Jones – kept the game in hand, and broke up lots of stuff coming at the US, when no one else was doing anything. Also, would say that Diskerud was the worst of the match. Too many heavy touches and bad passes, esp.in the first half.

    • Shawn says:

      Jones? You’re kidding, right? His passing was horrible. Again. He pretty much constituted the place attacks went to die all game long. And he suffered from his usual delusions of being the #8 when his role is to be the destroyer.

      And if I were Klinsi, the next time Jones does his ‘fall over like a bowling pin when he’s caught in possession trick’ so he can’t make a recovery run to help his teammates that he screwed over by giving the ball away, I’d yank him to the bench.

    • dude says:

      Opposite Day, huh?

      • Bubba says:

        No, we had no attack in the first half. Diskerud made sure of that. Jones did what a DM is supposed to do – broke up stuff coming at him, controlled the game, and tried to get things moving forward. When Dix is passing the ball out of bounds or booting it everytime that he touched it, is it any wonder that Jones didn’t get good passes connected up the field.

        • Bubba says:

          Sorry, Mix did those bad things, not Dix.

        • Brett says:

          Jozy, Landon, and Bedoya all had a higher rate of giveaways than Mix (who had more total giveaways, but also far more passes attempted. These three were the rusty cogs in the attack, with bad passing and poor touches (especially Bedoya, who lost possession on his first touch more times than I can recall).

    • JoshW says:

      I agree with Bubba. I thought Jones was solid again and one of our top players today. While I think many are over-rating Mix’s performance, I thought Jozy was our worst. Though Mix did have some really bad turnovers that top teams would likely have made us pay for.

      • Dennis says:

        The problem in the first half is that Jones was getting little help from Mix and Landon, and Bedoya did only OK defensively. Thankfully after an initial rash challenge, Jones settled down and mostly played the role of destroyer, something he can do well. Jones, in this game, did not try to do what he can’t, by that I mean few long services to no one, and no attempts to dribble out of the back while under pressure. Basically Jones did what he does well and did not attempt to show what he does not do well.

        The problem is when the your defensive midfielder is the one who is having the best game among the midfielders, it usually means your attack is failing.

        • Shawn says:

          I wouldn’t say Jones forgot his penchant for rash, pointless long balls. That moon shot he sent, ostensibly to Jozy Altidore. I don’t think he was nearly as tidy with the ball as a DMC ought to be.

          Now he wasn’t as profligate as Bedoya was, or as some of his own past games. But he’s not being precise enough with the ball. I don’t think he’s as much a first-choice start as Klinsi seems to think he is.

          • JoshW says:

            I think that moon shot popped up off an elephant pie sized divot right before he struck the ball. His passing was tidy for the most part (and better statistically than any other midfielder), and that was with a bumpy pitch and some new faces in the lineup.

  9. LM says:

    Not a Zusi fan. I think Howard deserves MOTM or maybe Evans who got the ball out just in time…anyone but Zusi!! And whats with replacing Donovan and Johansson?! I thought Jones was the one who was literally invisible in the middle and the

    • Kris says:

      Howard did well but Zusi and Castillo were the spark that led to the W. As a Dynamo fan, I’m not technically a Zusi fan either. But give the man his due. He fights like hell and he deserves a WC spot. That was a great finish and he’s gnarly on FK deliveries.

      As for Donovan? He was an apparition. Not the LD we are used to seeing. He’ll do better next time, but tonight was not a good one.

      I was also disappointed to see AJ off so quickly, but obviously that was due to the 4-2-3-1 formation switch. And no doubt Jurgen made the right decision.

      • LM says:

        Yes I don’t deny that the game became far more interesting but i think Klinsmann should really come to a solution about this instead of just switching people to different places like he did with Donovan and create a group that can fight right off the start because if not we are gonna get eaten in Brazil!

        • Kris says:

          Yeah I agree. Though I suspect, being that we already secured our spot in Brazil, Klinsmann may be using these last two WCQ games. Hopefully that’s the case.

      • Roy says:

        The questions are, Could Klinsy have made the formation change earlier with the starters, or leave the starters in after half to see how formation change works for them? Thus, was the fault the formation or the players?

        Sometimes Klinsy makes so many early changes he runs the risk of having injured players and no subs.

      • Mueller says:

        Disagree. I don’t think Donovan is as good on the wings anymore. He doesn’t play there for Galaxy and it shows.

    • Mike in Missouri says:

      So, you give no reason for not giving it to Zusi other than you’re not a fan of his.

      Gonna have to do better than that.

  10. Citronomics says:

    Holy cow. #22 for Mexico with a nasty bicycle kick in the 85th. Great skill to roll or direct the ball up from receiving the pass on the ground to get the shot off.

    • John says:

      Wild finish that I’m sure will have Mexican writers saying they are actually the best in Concacaf still.

    • A.S. says:

      As the Univision commentators said, golaaaaaaaaaaaaaaso-aso-aso-aso-aso.

      I thought Mexico were dead after the Panama goal. Props to Jimenez for the moment of brilliance.

    • A.S. says:

      Also, I am somewhat surprised at the lack of SBI comments on the Mexico game. :(

    • wandmdave says:

      Was a little disappointed to see that goal. I’m not one of those that is hoping Mexico won’t make it to the WC but they have to play up to their potential and earn it first. Panama played we’ll enough to steal that point and then Mexico got bailed out by a flash of individual brilliance that wouldn’t come off 9/10 times. Props to Jimenez for having the balls and the skill to even try it but he bailed out a poor showing for a team that should do much better.

    • Dennis says:

      I don’t think it was great skill on the first touch, but he reacted well to take the shot when the ball popped up on him. In truth it was a difficult ball to do anything with, it was coming pretty hard at thigh level, getting any touch on the ball that kept it close and away from the defenders could be called good, but it was a bit of luck that it set up so well for the bicycle kick.

      • Scott says:

        His actual comment, after the game, was that he couldn’t handle the ball when it came in to him, so he just had to do something. Paraphrasing. Props to him for taking the chance.

  11. Kris says:

    I still think Cameron could replace Jones as the true defensive mid. I think he covers just as well and he can make legit passes out of the back. Jones, it seems, tries too hard to push forward (making Bradley or Mix’s job more difficult) and then he is a turnover machine.

    The Bradley/Cameron pairing against Panama was fantastic. I really wish Jurgen would use it again.

    That being said, Cameron is pretty versatile: RB for club and CB/CDM for country.

  12. Bates says:

    Bedoya was NOT terrible but can anyone explain the rational behind him starting instead of Zusi?

    • salamander says:

      Bedoya plays in France. Zusi plays in MLS

    • JoshW says:

      Bedoya plays a wingback for is club and brings more physicality to he defensive side of the ball. When the other 3 attacking players are strikers, I think Klinmann sometimes opts for Bedoya to lock down the right side. Particularly important to get good D out of the RW when your RB is a little suspect. Also, Zusi’s side got lit up by CR.

    • Brett says:

      Someone above said it; he tracks back better on defense.

      • Mike in Missouri says:

        Zusi had that 40 yard run in Azteca which saved us a point. He’s not bad defensively by any means. Yes, he’s more offensively minded.

        Really our midfield will comprise of the tactics for the game. Some days it may have MB, JJ, LD, CD, GZ other days it may be MB, JJ, FJ, AB, LD or whatever. We have enough depth now to vary our lineup depending on tactics. Which is kinda nice.

    • john Lowe says:

      @Bates,

      because we are already qualified and Klinsman can experiment some.

    • Hogatroge says:

      Rationale:

      1. Zusi was bad against CR
      2. Bedoya was good against Mexico

      While Zusi had a great showing last night, and I think he definitely belongs in the mix, people are overlooking the fact that Bedoya had a solid game, too. He was one of the few bright spots of the 1st half, even if some of his crosses were a little long. Let’s not forget that Ale’s play set the stage for Zusi’s goal.

    • Shawn says:

      To be fair, Bedoya’s been on a good run of form in France. Zusi has been coming off the injury he took in the MLS All-Star Game. Only recently has he been playing 100% again. So although I’m supposedly a ‘homer’ for thinking Zusi deserves being MoM for changing the game and energizing the team when he came on, aside from the goal. I’ll say Bedoya deserved the start.

      I would start Zusi in the next match though. Bedoya didn’t play poorly. But he didn’t help his cause either. It’s going to be a battle between those two for a wing spot opposite Landon. And I don’t see Donovan coming inside, because that’s where Dempsey is playing when healthy. And Clint is not a winger.

    • Eurosnob says:

      Klinsi’s primary goal is to assess players. After we qualified, he can start whoever he wants. Perhaps he also wanted to save Zusi’s and Donovan’s legs for the next game, which is on the road in a much tougher environment. Zusi came in for Donovan rather than for Bedoya, right? Each got roughly 45 minutes. They should be relatively fresh to go on Tuesday.

    • Mueller says:

      Faster and better at running at players in space.

  13. Dainja says:

    I think a battle to watch for until Brazil…

    Zusi vs Bedoya.

    Zusi was the man a year ago, then Bedoya took the last few games…but now Zusi is gunnin for him! Gonna be a great battle, as evidently Fabian is going to Brazil as a LM.

    “Two man enter, one man leave.”

    • JoshW says:

      Reminds me of Govou vs. Malouda for France in ’06. Malouda won out because, even though Govou was better offensively, Malouda could cover more ground for the team on defense. Coach D thought that was the right call because Zidane didn’t like to run very much at that stage of his career.

      • JoshW says:

        Actually, I was confusing Wiltord with Govou. Wiltord started the tournament, but France went with Malouda after the first two matches.

    • Hogatroge says:

      I don’t know. Could be Zusi and Bedoya on opposite wings, with LD playing beneath Jozy up top.

    • Mueller says:

      For me Bedoya should be the RM. He’s got more speed and I think we will need it in Brazil, where we have to counterattack a little more against better teams.

  14. Jim says:

    Jermaine jones sucks. Fabian should be the left back. Landon left mid zusi right mid Bradley and Mix defensive mids. Nothing against Beasley but he makes too many errors as a defender and yeah his make up speed is great but you don’t need that if you don’t make a mistake in the pray place. Not sure what jurgens infatuation with Jermaine is, unless it’s because he’s half German, but he shouldn’t be out there.

    • JoshW says:

      I thought Jones was one of our best against Mex and solid again today. What are you seeing that makes you say that he sucks? Serious question.

    • Dennis says:

      Generally I have been unimpressd with Jones in his last 9 months of performances for the USMNT. However, last night he mostly did not try to do the things he cannot do well(dribble out of trouble in traffic, try to make long services) and instead played simpler shorter balls for the most part. He did sometimes hold the ball too long and slowed things down, but it was when he had some space so he did not make bad turnovers. He did try to hit a couple long passes that were picked off and killed the attack, but mixing in some long balls is not a bad thing. I thought he did ok at disrupting Jamaica and in the first half he did that with not so much help (Donavon was no help defensively, Diskerud was not of much help in this regard either and Bedoya stayed out wide where he really could not contriobute much defensively either). Of the midfielders in the first half, Bedoya was the only one who consistently attacked successfully, Jones was the next best midfielder, but his efforts were mostly defensive.

      • Lance says:

        I also am not a big Jones fan. I don’t like his game and think hes little more than a larger Pablo Mastroeni. He does good as a destroyer but unlike a destroyer, he tries to get into the attack too much. Once in a while, he’ll hit a good pass but most are not that good or great.

        There is something definitely wrong with this team. Too often JK starting lineups don’t click and we look terrible. Then he makes a change or two and we start to look like world beaters. Saw it last game. Team that finished had Jamaica on their heals

        Zusi had a solid game but for me, MOTM was Castillo. He turned the game around. I want to see Castillo start at left half with Fabian behind him. No insult to Zusi but IF he goes to Germany, he won’t see the field and its a big IF. Lots of people fighting for same position

    • Nope says:

      Jim knows little about soccer, or watches the game blinded by some kind of anti-German bias. Jones had the fewest turnovers and the highest pass completion rate of any starter in the midfield, while completely shutting down the Jamaican attack through the middle. And he did this while getting zero help from Donovan or Mix.

    • Kosh says:

      Looks to me like you, as do many who proclaim with certainty that Jones “sucks”, are very adept at watching individual plays and instances within the game instead of assessing and appreciating the entire body of work over the 90+.

      • keithbabs79 says:

        Jones doesn’t ‘suck’. But for a solid 6 months, he grew fat and happy with his guaranteed placement in the starting xi, and therefore exhibited minimal effort. With his skillset (or lack thereof), he drew ire from fans like me. He rose to the occasion in Mexico, but this display needs to be the norm pushing forward; not the exception. His presence in Brazil should compliment Bradley well.

        • Jim says:

          He makes poor choices way too often, for the better part of this year he would make a stupid tackle to earn a yellow or close to one, dosent compliment Bradley like I think mix would. You’re right he does have flashes of what his potential could be but I don’t think he should be a starter. Reserve player yes.

          • JoshW says:

            Bradley’s big and strong but not particularly quick. Mix weighs 145 pound and much of that is twinkle toes, stardust and hair. Starting Mix – Bradley at the WC would make the other teams feel like they’re playing a practice match in St. Tropez. Playing against Jones is never comfortable, kinda like Beirut. Plus he has as much quality as anyone else on the team. That’s why he starts if he’s healthy.

          • Mueller says:

            Mix can’t play defense. The front can attack the way they do because they have Jones and to a lesser extent Bradley behind them defending.

            • Jim says:

              Alright Cameron or Mix are my two choices ahead of jones. Cameron does everything that jones should do but better and consisitently. An with Cameron with Bradley, it allows MB to get into the attack which adds depth to the midfield and allows for better movement in the final third an protects against counters. When jones is with Bradley he tends to push too high which weakens the attack and dosent unleash Bradley so to say. Mix just makes good passes coming out of the midfield.

    • THomas says:

      When you start your post out with a statement like that, you lose all credibility.

      He was playing with a hurt knee and was still one of our better players.

      • SwerveZ says:

        I think many of us should realize that Jones’ knee was injured and now requires more treatment. With that, he does amazing things, and things unnoticed by many, that are GOOD.

  15. Portland J says:

    Zusi, seriously? You are all a bunch of homers. The two assists were better than the goals.

    • Scott says:

      Zusi was not assisted on his goal. The cross was never coming to him until deflected by a defender. He took that deflection and made a nice shot to the far corner. Not a goal of the week, but not shabby. And if by homer, you mean a guy that lives in GA and appreciates a nice shot, on a night that others are being wasteful with theirs…whatever.

    • Keith says:

      The Zusi hate on here is getting stupid. You’re either blind or just an ignorant hater. Did you not notice who fed Bedoya to get that “assist” you want to credit? Stop being a clown

    • Mike in Missouri says:

      Yeah, there’s that cross for the one timer to Johannsen that went just right too.

      No one’s saying Zusi is the best player in the world. But to have disdain for him (cause he plays in MLS, I assume) is stupid. He’s a part time starter at worst.

  16. Colin in MT says:

    I thought all 3 of the subs did exactly what subs are supposed to do – brought some energy and much needed sense of urgency. Also, the switch to a 4-2-3-1 by Klinsmann paid off. Lastly, I was pleasantly surprised with how the US back line handled the speed of Jamaica.

    I’d like to see the same lineup that finished that game start against panama. Those 3 subs should be rewarded for their cameo efforts.

  17. Joamiq says:

    Totally solid choice. Zusi brought a lot more activity to the left flank than Donovan did in the first half. He played with purpose. His finish was good, and the movement that got him in position to make the finish was representative of his strong play throughout the second half.

  18. mchrist910 says:

    no love for Evans?

  19. Irwan Paraswatty says:

    Where is the player ratings piece? It seems easy enough to write, don’t know why there wouldn’t be one.