Sporting KC ride team effort in win, but special praise reserved for Graham Zusi, Soni Mustivar

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Their nights won't show up in the scoresheet – but without Graham Zusi and Soni Mustivar, Sporting Kansas City's night might have turned out quite a bit differently.

Zusi drove his club's second-half surge from the wing and Mustivar's energetic work in the defensive midfield helped stifle FC Dallas for much of Friday's match, and both saw their efforts pay off in a 3-1 victory that broke Sporting's five-match winless streak and halted Dallas' winning run at three matches.

Neither seemed all that keen on taking any credit, though – especially Zusi, who was quick to praise Sporting's defense for making things easier on Kansas City's attacking players.

“I think it all started defensively tonight,” he told reporters. “I thought we were fantastic defensively. We hardly gave them a sniff. I think the reason we had so much energy going forward was because we were so aggressive defensively. Whenever we lost the ball tonight, we won it back so quickly, and that allowed the front five guys to use that energy to go forward and go at them. That's why we created so many chances tonight.”

Mustivar acknowledged the defensive unit's hard work, but said Zusi set the tone for Sporting's breakout after a scoreless first half – especially during a ferocious one-two sequence of shots in the 53rd minute that forced a gutsy double save from FCD 'keeper Jesse Gonzalez.

“He's a top player on our team,” Mustivar told MLSsoccer.com. “Sometimes I forget to play because I'm watching him play. He's like the guy we follow every time, because he's got good energy. He gives everything on the field.”

In Sporting's postmatch news conference, center back and captain Matt Besler said much the same thing about his SuperDraft classmate, World Cup teammate and close friend.

“I’m just glad he’s on our team,” Besler said. “He’s an excellent team player. With a guy like Zusi, sometimes you take a guy like him for granted because you’re around him every single day and you know what he can do. But when you take a step back and realize what he does, that’s when you really appreciate him.”

And midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who scored on a free kick and from the penalty spot for his ninth and 10th league goals of the season, praised both Zusi and Mustivar.

“I think Zus had one of his better games this year,” Feilhaber said. “He's so important to us. He provides so much speed down the side, and it opens up the defense. When he gets going, he gets good crosses in.

“He's been dealing with some injuries this year, but I think he played a fantastic game today and he's vital to this group, and I know he's going to keep it going.”

Mustivar also has been dealing with injury in recent weeks, but is playing himself back into his usual high-energy form.

“To me, he's the most important player on this team,” Feilhaber said. “He allows everybody in front of him to do what they do. I feel that probably more than anybody. He covers our asses so much. He wins every second ball, and he opens up the game for us.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.