Last year, Sporting Kansas City fans got used to seeing Graham Zusi set up goals from the perimeter – not put them in the net himself.
But if Zusi’s 30-yard blast in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Montreal in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic is any indication, this year could see the 2012 assists leader re-emerge as a scoring threat from distance.
“Big time goal,” manager Peter Vermes told local reporters after the match.
The winger’s 19th-minute strike might have reminded fans of the long-range rocket against FC Dallas that drove Zusi’s breakout season in 2011, but Zusi – who just rejoined Sporting this week after U.S. National Team Duty – didn’t see the resemblance.
“That one was off a set piece,” he told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Orlando, Fla. “This one was more during the flow of the game.”
Sporting lacked a consistent threat from distance last season, but Zusi – who moved to the wing from an attacking midfield role in 2012 -- stopped short of saying that he’d be the one to provide it in 2013.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess if there’s a shot from distance, I’ll take it. I don’t think they’ll all go in.”
Center back Matt Besler and midfielder Benny Feilhaber were also in the XI on Saturday, after joining Zusi in the Nats’ January camp, and all three looked solid.
“We had some good chances as a team,” Vermes said, “but it was big for us to have Zusi, Benny and Matt Besler back on the field together.”
Vermes also liked that he was able to keep his starters on the pitch for an hour.
“That was a big piece,” he said. “The last piece is that we have to get those guys 75 minutes in the next game.”