Sporting Kansas City defender Graham Zusi made his customary appearance on Sports Radio 810 WHB on Tuesday, joining The Border Patrol hosts Nate Bukaty and Steven St. John to discuss one of the greatest all-time matches in the fierce international rivalry between the United States and Mexico.
The U.S. ousted Mexico in a 3-2 extra-time thriller on Sunday night in Denver to lift the inaugural Concacaf Nations League title, captivating millions of fans on both sides of the border and serving up an instant classic that won’t soon be forgotten.
Zusi, who amassed five goals and seven assists for the U.S. Men’s National Team from 2012-2017, declared that the Americans’ momentous win over Mexico would give head coach Gregg Berhalter’s side a major mental boost heading into the Concacaf Gold Cup in July and World Cup qualifying this fall.
“The level of play on the field was fantastic and the atmosphere was as good as it could be with a limited capacity,” Zusi said. “The energy of the players on the field—it was so fun to watch. This trophy may not seem like there’s a ton of significance in terms of qualifying for something else, but a trophy is a trophy. That’s what we play for and any time we can put something on the shelf against our biggest rival, it’s huge. The significance is huge: this is great for our mentality and we get to stick it to our rivals as well.”
The core of the U.S. squad features big-name players who ply their club trade in Europe—including Sunday’s goal scorers Gio Reyna of Borussia Dortmund, Weston McKennie of Juventus and Christian Pulisic of UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea. As talented as the roster is, select pundits have questioned the collective toughness of the group in high-intensity battles against Concacaf rivals such as Mexico, Honduras and the U.S.
Zusi, however, believes the U.S. MNT displayed that patented toughness en route to sinking Mexico on Sunday night.
“Some of that grit and mentality to fight was definitely shown this weekend,” Zusi said. “I think that’s what excited a lot of fans and—in my case—a lot of (former national team) players as well.”
Zusi and Sporting were off last weekend and will return to action Saturday when expansion side Austin FC visits Children’s Mercy Park for the second time. The occasion will serve as yet another reunion for former Sporting captain Matt Besler, who now anchors the Austin FC backline, as well as Austin head coach Josh Wolff and assistant Davy Arnaud—both of whom starred for Kansas City in the 2000s.
When Zusi and Besler squared off on May 9, Sporting emerged with a thrilling 2-1 victory to punctuate what was an emotional occasion for both players.
“That game was really emotional for me for a few different reasons,” Zusi said. “I don’t think Bes and I really knew what to expect going into that first one. Having done it before, we’ll be prepared and it’ll be a little different emotionally. Matt will be coming back to his hometown and playing in front of a heck of a lot more fans. That might make it even more special for him.”
Saturday’s match will kick off at 2 p.m. CT with live coverage on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com, the Bally Sports app, Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM. Tickets for the contest are available at SeatGeek.com.
Sporting (5-2-1, 16 points) have won four of their last five matches and can jump atop the Supporters' Shield standings on Saturday if they beat an Austin FC side (2-4-1, 7 points) that has taken just a point from its last four fixtures.