Defender Graham Zusi was in a similar position as countless other fans on Saturday night: an excited spectator watching from home and pulling for a Sporting Kansas City victory.
Sporting delivered in a big way, securing a 2-1 comeback victory as Gadi Kinda and Daniel Salloi scored in back-to-back minutes near the hour mark.
Making his customary appearance on Sports Radio 810 WHB this morning, Zusi told Border Patrol hosts Nate Bukaty and Steven St. John that the nature of the win showed Sporting’s resolve—a trait that has characterized the club’s winning ways for the last several seasons.
“It’s a massive three points to start the season, and I think the way that we did it shows a lot about the group as well. To go down on the road is a difficult thing, but the response that we had was fantastic,” Zusi said. “I can’t say enough about the guys’ mentality going into that game and during it.”
Among the prevailing storylines to emerge from Saturday’s clash was that of 19-year-old goalkeeper and MLS debutant John Pulskamp, who became the youngest Sporting keeper to play in an MLS match and the youngest keeper in league history to win an away game.
Pulskamp made two saves en route to the victory and showed palpable energy throughout. Zusi did point out in jest, however, that the Homegrown keeper has a lesson or two to learn in clever gamesmanship.
“I thought he played very well for that being his first match and just for how young he is,” Zusi said of Pulskamp. “He certainly doesn’t look 19, but I thought John was great. You could see the adrenaline flowing through him the whole game. I pulled him aside yesterday and said, ‘Hey, Johnny, when we’re winning 2-1, maybe let’s not run as fast as we can behind the goal to get the ball for a goal kick.’ But he’s a player beyond his years, for sure. He’s got a long career ahead of him.”
Up next for Sporting is a highly anticipated and long-awaited home opener against Orlando City SC on Friday night at Children’s Mercy Park. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT with national coverage on FS1 and FOX Deportes as well as local radio broadcasts on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.
Orlando reached the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time last season behind head coach Oscar Pareja and a slew of talented attackers like Nani, Chris Mueller and Daryl Dike, who has since joined English side Barnsley on loan.
“Oscar Pareja has got them playing a style that is attractive and effective,” Zusi said of Orlando. “They’re a team that has a lot of confidence from the last couple of years and they’re a dangerous team. They’ve got solid players in all positions and they can really hurt you in attack. We’re going to need a solid week of training leading up to this game.”
As with any home opener, Zusi is relishing the opportunity for Sporting to return to the friendly confines of Children’s Mercy Park. The club’s first four home matches of 2021 will be held with approximately 6,500 fans in attendance.
“First and foremost, I’m looking forward to getting a game back at home,” Zusi said. “I’ve missed going to our stadium. It’s been a long offseason and I can’t wait to get back inside Children’s Mercy Park in front of the fans—can’t wait to see them and hear them.”