Sporting KC midfielder James Musa named to New Zealand Men’s National Team for upcoming World Cup qualifiers

James Musa - Sporting KC at Seattle Sounders FC

Sporting Kansas City midfielder James Musa was named to the New Zealand Men’s National Team on Tuesday for a pair of crucial FIFA World Cup qualifiers against the Solomon Islands on Sept. 1 and 5.

Musa will join the All Whites in Auckland, New Zealand on Aug. 27 for training ahead of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Final Playoff. The first leg is slated for Sept. 1 at QBE Stadium in Auckland, with the return leg set for Sept. 5 at Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

The winner of the OFC Final Playoff will advance to a two-legged intercontinental playoff in November, meeting a South American side with a 2018 FIFA World Cup berth on the line.

“James is a good player, he’s been in our environment before and we’ve been keeping track of him since then,” New Zealand head coach Anthony Hudson said in a statement. “He’s been in touch with me for a long time, we met on our tour of the States and he’s always shown a lot desire to be given a chance, and his patience has now paid off. He’s strong, very comfortable on the ball and can play at the back and as a holding midfielder. Making his debut in the MLS last weekend was nothing more than he deserves.”

Musa, 25, has made one previous appearance for New Zealand’s senior national team, appearing in a friendly against South Africa on May 30, 2014. Capable of playing as a defensive midfielder or center back, Musa represented the New Zealand U-20s with three starts at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia, then competed with the U-23s at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Musa, who signed for Sporting Kansas City last week from USL affiliate Swope Park Rangers, made an impressive MLS debut in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Seattle Sounders FC. He started and logged 90 minutes in midfield while leading all players in touches (84), passes (78) and passes completed (68). He also provided an offensive threat in the second half when his 20-yard strike was saved by sprawling Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Musa joined the Rangers last November and has featured regularly this season for an SPR side that currently occupies third place in the United Soccer League’s Western Conference. The midfielder has played the full 90 minutes in all 18 appearances and ranks third on the USL charts in total passes.

Prior to linking up with SPR, Musa spent the 2015 and 2016 USL seasons with Saint Louis FC. He began his professional career in 2010 in New Zealand before signing with English Premier League club Fulham in summer 2012. Musa was loaned to English outfit Hereford United the following January, then returned to the South Pacific in summer 2013 for stints with Team Wellington and Australian club South Melbourne.