Sporting Kansas City defender Graham Zusi made his record-breaking 349th competitive appearance for the club in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Austin FC at Children’s Mercy Park.
Unfortunately for the veteran right back, it came at a price: Zusi was forced to exit the game near halftime with a thigh injury. The setback wasn’t serious, however—Zusi is expected to make a quick recovery—and it certainly paled in comparison to a major scare that took place earlier on Saturday afternoon.
Shortly before leaving his house for Children’s Mercy Park, Zusi was among the millions of people worldwide who saw heralded Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen collapse on the field during a UEFA Euro 2020 match against Finland. Eriksen had suffered cardiac arrest and could have passed away if not for being resuscitated by the medical staff.
“It’s a very difficult scene to watch,” Zusi said Monday during his customary appearance on Sports Radio 810 WHB. “Everything stops and you just try to send all of the positivity to him and his family. Nothing matters at that point other than the health of the player. I’m thrilled to hear that he’s continued to improve in a stable condition, and I really hope he can make a full recovery.”
Even as Zusi traveled to Children’s Mercy Park, went through warmups and took the field in front of over 18,000 fans, Eriksen remained in his thoughts. By the time Sporting and Austin kicked off, news had emerged that the Danish star was responsive and in stable condition. Nevertheless, the scare offered a clear reminder of the fragility of life—and that sports will always take a backseat to bigger things.
“We love the sport we play, but there’s definitely something bigger than sports out there,” Zusi said. “This was very much a situation where people were realizing that and thinking that. What was great to hear before we went out for warmups was to see the news that (Eriksen) had got to a stable place. That was a huge relief to the players and to everyone in the world watching. In the minutes and hours after it happened, you start putting things into perspective going into a game.”
The 1-1 tie against Austin extended Sporting’s unbeaten run to four matches and moved the club (5-2-2, 17 points) within a point of Seattle Sounders FC for first place in both the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings.
Next up is a challenging trip to the Portland Timbers (3-4-0, 9 points) at Providence Park on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 9:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on Bally Sports Kansas City, Bally Sports Midwest, BallySports.com, the Bally Sports app, Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.
“Playing in Portland is a lot of fun,” Zusi said. “For one, the weather is typically perfect for playing soccer. You can run all day out there. And then the atmosphere that they create every game at their park is a blast, as well. I’d be remiss not to give their fans some credit. It’s another fun place to play and historically we’ve had some success there. Any time you can get some points on the road is huge—especially against teams from your conference.”