On Thursday, Graham Zusi joined The Program with Soren Petro on Sports Radio 810 WHB to discuss an eventful month for the Sporting KC midfielder that included a knockout round match in the World Cup (July 1), an MLS match five days later, an All-Star selection, a Designated Player contract and a goal in Toronto to move Sporting KC atop the Supporters' Shield standings.
Next up? Tomorrow's Eastern Conference encounter with the Philadelphia Union (7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports, 810 AM & 1340 AM) at Sporting Park before departing for the 2014 MLS All-Star Game on August 6.
Zusi touched on a number of topics throughout the 16-minute interview. Listen to the full podcast embedded below for the following excerpts, as well as his timeline for the United States Men's National Team to win their first World Cup and the mystery surrounding how a postgame jersey exchange led to a hotel room theft.
On his decision to re-sign with Sporting KC...
"It's the direction this club is headed. You've seen over the past four years now what it's done for the city and the vision hasn't stopped there. Our ownership group is probably the best in sports. Their vision is incredible. They have stuff planned out in the next couple years that I want to be part of."
On his experience in Brazil...
"The experience itself was an incredible one for me. To be matched up against the best players in the world, especially against Germany as the eventual winners, it really gives you a bar that you can set and something you can really work towards. You have to be honest with yourself at the end of the day. I was able to do that and know that I'm not there yet. It really gives me something to work towards on that front."
On the United States progress at the international level...
"I think we're well on the way and definitely headed in the right direction. I think Jurgen has done a great job so far with implementing what we need to do to get to that level. He's been very honest with the U.S. fans along with the players, telling us what we need to do to one day be competing against the Germany's and the Brazil's. What we saw from this tournament is we're certainly capable of it. We can hang with some of the best teams in the world on a given day. What we want to do now is do that on a consistent basis every time we're up against them."
On Sporting KC's remaining schedule...
"The second half of the season is always a grind. There's jostling for the playoff positions. We have a team tomorrow in Philly who has always played us well and especially at home. We definitely owe them one. They came in and kind of took it to us last time they were here in Kansas City; definitely not a team to take lightly...At this point of the season, we're sitting in a great spot at the top of the table. Every time we can put another three points up there and distance ourselves, especially from the people in our own conference, that's what it is all about."
Sporting Kansas City winger Jacob Peterson -- the game-winning goal scorer in last weekend's 2-1 win at Toronto FC -- and Philadelphia Union midfielder Maurice Edu joined this week's episode of The Sporting KC Show, which aired last night on Sports Radio 810 WHB and is embedded in its entirety below. Hosts Callum Williams and Carter Augustine interviewed both players in advance of Friday's Eastern Conference clash.
The Union have just one loss in their last 10 games across all competition and have proven to be a thorn in SKC's side at Sporting Park. The reigning MLS Cup champions have suffered only two losses in their last 21 MLS and CCL home matches dating back to last year, both of which came against Philadelphia.
Riding a seven-game unbeaten streak, Sporting KC will aim for sole possession of first place in the Supporters' Shield standings with a result on Friday. A limited number of tickets are still available on Ticketmaster.com and the first 10,000 fans inside the gates will receive a pair of Sporting KC spirit sleeves courtesy of UMB Bank. Not able to attend? The match will be televised nationally on NBC Sports, with additional radio coverage on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Gran D 1340 AM (Spanish).
The results are in and MLSsoccer.com readers resoundingly voted for tomorrow's #TORvSKC match-up as the MLS Stream of the Week (6 p.m. CT live on KMCI 38 the Spot and SKCTV). Sporting KC takes a four-game road winning streak into BMO Field to face Toronto FC, who boasts the second-highest attendance average in Major League Soccer this season.
In the previous meeting between the two Eastern Conference contenders, Dom Dwyer (14g, 0a) scored twice in a 2-2 draw at Sporting Park in May. His English counterpart Jermain Defoe (11g, 2a) will miss Saturday's rematch due to caution accumulation and, in his place, Toronto FC could turn to former MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario. A six-time member of the MLS Best XI, De Rosario ranks sixth on Major League Soccer's all-time goal scoring chart with 103 goals.
Check out the video below from MLSsoccer.com's Nick Firchau and Matt Doyle for their thoughts on the major storylines to watch...
— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) July 11, 2014
Sporting Kansas City trained in Montreal this morning ahead of tomorrow's showdown at Stade Saputo. Manager Peter Vermes' squad will be frequent visitors north of the border with three of their next four road games coming on Canadian soil (7/12 at MTL, 7/26 at TOR, 8/10 at VAN), where Sporting KC has six regular season victories all-time -- second most among MLS clubs.
Montreal, in particular, has been the source of valuable road points for Sporting KC since the Impact entered MLS in 2012. Sporting KC is one of just two teams with multiple victories at Stade Saputo in MLS play, including a 3-0 victory there in May.
Sporting KC all-time in Canada: 6-4-5
- ...at Montreal: 2-1-1
- ...at Toronto: 3-3-3
- ...at Vancouver: 1-0-1
For more on the #MTLvSKC match-up, check out the MLSsoccer.com Scouting Report below with Nick Firchau and Matt Doyle...
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is on the cusp of crowning a champion as Argentina and Germany will meet in the final on Sunday at the historic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2 p.m. CT live on ABC & Univision). While Germany are making a record eighth appearance in the World Cup final and fourth straight top-four finish after handing the hosts a stunning 7-1 defeat on Tuesday, Argentina have advanced past the quarterfinal round for the first time since doing so in 1986 and 1990 when they ultimately met West Germany in the final on both occasions.
Back then, La Albiceleste fielded Diego Maradona in his prime but today a new age of stars led by captain and four-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi has the South American side on the brink of lifting the World Cup trophy for the first time since 1986 -- nearly a full year before the 27-year-old Messi was born.
Glimpses of this golden generation began to garner attention on the global stage in 2005 at the FIFA World Youth Championship when Argentina's Under-20 squad featured six players now in Brazil on their World Cup roster: Sergio Aguero, Lucas Biglia, Fernando Gago, Ezequiel Garay, Lionel Messi and Pablo Zabaleta. Five of those six were on the field yesterday in Argentina's semifinal showdown versus the Netherlands, including the team's first three shooters in the decisive penalty shootout.
As such, it comes as little surprise that Argentina outlasted the 24-team field in 2005 to claim the prestigious youth title but only after opening the tournament with a stunning group stage upset at the hands of the United States. "There's no excuse for this defeat," said Lionel Messi, who went on to become the tournament's top player and goal scorer.
Turning back the clock nine summers ago, today's Throwback Thursday remembers the roles Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber and forward Jacob Peterson played at Arke Stadium in the Netherlands when the United States Under-20 Men's National Team prevailed 1-0 over Argentina, earned a scoreless draw against Germany and won their group thanks to Peterson's game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Egypt.
- June 11, 2005: USA 1, Argentina 0
- June 15, 2005: USA 0, Germany 0
- June 18, 2005: USA 1, Egypt 0
Benny Feilhaber and the U.S. celebrate Chad Barrett's goal against Argentina
On the eve of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, predictions are flying fast and furious. Which country will win it all in Brazil? How will the U.S. MNT fare in the group of death? Who will take home the golden boot?
Take part in the punditry and cast your conjecture as the buzz builds for the world's most widely viewed sporting event. KICKTV is offering up an Xbox One for the winner of their group in MLSsoccer.com's Brazil Bracket Challenge and bragging rights are up for grabs on Knoda's social prediction platform (web, android, iOS).
— Erik Bergrud (@erikbergrud) June 11, 2014
Got a guess? Have a hunch? Join the forecasting frenzy to see how your soothsaying stacks up against fellow fans. After all, even the experts can't call 'em all.
- VOTE NOW: Pick your All-Star Fan XI
Prior to the month of May, Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer had six goals in 24 MLS regular season appearances. Thirty days later he's doubled his career total with six goals in the past six games.
Not only is Dwyer the league's leading scorer this month -- tied with New York's Bradley Wright-Phillips, who is idle this weekend -- he is also the only MLS player with two multi-goal games in May. Dwyer has one more opportunity to put an exclamation point on his recent run, and move back atop the Golden Boot race, when Sporting Kansas City takes on D.C. United at RFK Stadium at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday.
After all, Dwyer has scored goals in three of the team's past four road matches (including both in the month of May) and scored in the last meeting with D.C. United, a 1-0 victory at Sporting Park in October.
SIX GAMES. SIX GOALS. SIX GIFS.
Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes joined Fescoe in the Morning on 610 Sports Radio earlier today with hosts Johnny Kane and Josh Klingler to discuss all the latest developments within his club. Check out the following transcript of the interview or listen to the podcast embedded below...
On being outplayed by Philadelphia on Wednesday...
In this league, it doesn't really matter how good you are. It matters how consistent you are in the work ethic that you display week after week. If you don't bring that to the table, you don't have a chance of winning in this league because all the teams are built relatively the same when it comes to the type of players that are in the teams…That work ethic has to be a staple all the time and that's something that, I think, the last four years we've been pretty good at and pretty consistent at.
On holding the team accountable...
The business that we're in is one of, obviously, results and the other is entertainment. And those two things should walk hand-in-hand together. I think one of the reasons why we've sold out 42 in a row is because I think that the fans can appreciate that when the guys step inside the white lines, they leave everything out on the field. Whether we win or lose, they know that those guys have given the effort that they're supposed to. When you're not, people are going to stop coming and that's something that's not going to happen within this team. The other is it's about getting results. I do believe that (Wednesday) was a one-off, but I still don't like it. It's something that we're not going to stand for and it's something that we're going to rectify very quickly.
On the play of Dom Dwyer...
It's tremendous. What he has is a great desire to score. He's hungry all the time. And sometimes that's difficult to keep that mentality within that position. A guy can lose confidence. Right now, he's playing with a ton of confidence and at the same time, he's hungry. It shows up every time he's out there. He's definitely emerged as a very dangerous forward in this league and we have high expectations for him throughout the rest of the season with the number of competitions that we still have to play in. We haven't even hit U.S. Open Cup and Champions League, which will start in August again. He's really become a player that has put himself on the map and is now starting to take the reins of being the guy you look to to get the goals. He's definitely coming through with that.
On the challenge at central defense...
With Matt leaving, Collin getting injured in the game, Ike Opara getting injured earlier with the season-ending injury and now Lawrence Olum -- who can play in that position -- with him going away for his call-up, it really poses us with a serious challenge in that part of the field. We're looking at some short term fixes until some of those guys return whether it's from injury or from national team duty. At the same time, a little adversity isn't bad for any team over the course of the season. I always say it's better to happen early so you can get the experience of it and figure out how to deal with it, then be able to use it at those important times when you get toward the end of the season. We have a big challenge in front of us, for sure. We have one guy left and that's Erik Palmer-Brown whose 17 years old and hasn't played an MLS game yet. He's just coming back off a little injury himself. This weekend is going to be a bit of a challenge but in some respects, I think it's good. I think it's something that we need to take head on and figure out a way.
On the debut of Igor Juliao..
He's a very good player. Igor has the engine to play that we expect from that position. The other is that's he got a very good intelligence for the game and is a great competitor as a 1-v-1 defender. What our expectation is for those players offensively to get forward, he found himself in some really good positions with great timing. That kid has got a big future as we move forward so it would be nice over the next year or so if we can work out a deal to keep him here full time.
On Matt Besler and Graham Zusi's inclusion in the World Cup...
It would be a travesty if they weren't in the 23-man roster. Both guys have gone through qualifying and have had major impacts within that qualification. They both have shown not only can they play at that level, but can excel. I understand the magnitude of this opportunity for them, having been there myself. It's what every player dreams of and this is an opportunity I want to see both of them get and excel at. It's important for them as players. Obviously, it's great for our club but I really hope for the two of them that they make it there and get to participate and they show they can play at that level. It's going to be different when you step inside the white lines playing in a World Cup game. The environment is just totally different than a qualification round game. It'll be great experience for them if they're fortunate enough to step in there and play. Then to come back with that experience will be fantastic for us.