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U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM

October 12, 2013
HOMETOWN HERO
Zusi comes off the bench to score a memorable and dream goal for USA in WCQ win


KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- At the very least, a substitute wants to help raise the level of play and intensity of his team.

At the very most, that replacement would love to make an impact and perhaps score a goal.

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi accomplished that and then some on Friday night, striking for a goal as a second-half sub in front of his hometown fans in the United States' 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Jamaica at Sporting Park.

“I knew we were struggling a bit to get in behind them and create chances," Zusi said. "My job coming off the bench was to try to cause a spark and get things going a little bit.”

And that's exactly what Zusi did, replacing Landon Donovan at halftime and tallying the first goal in the 77th minute.

“You always want to be on the field as much as possible," he said. "You sit there and try to read the game when you're on the bench. When I learned that I was going to come out in the second half, I was pretty excited to get in there and try to make a stamp on the game.”

Zusi, incidentally, lives only minutes from Sporting Park, so doing it front of his hometown faithful put the goal into another orbit.

“This was a nice one to get, especially to do it in front of the home fans," he said. "It made it extra special for me and I'm sure for them as well. I believe [Matt] Besler [was the first to join the celebration]. He made a long run forward to celebrate with me; a special moment for both of us.”

And for the rest of the team as well. Until then the game had been scoreless.

Outside midfielder Alejandro Bedoya's pass was blocked, but he didn't give up as Zusi scored from 15 yards past goalkeeper Duwayne Kerr.

"But he stuck at it and did really well to get that second effort into me," Zusi said. "After a little bit of a mishit by me, I saw it going into the bottom left.”

While he has enjoyed success with the National Team, Zusi realized that his spot is never secure.

“I think it's needed," he said. "There's a great depth to this team. We're pushing each other each game and in practice, as well. That competition, like I said, is needed for a team to do well.”

The Americans have done so well that they clinched the CONCACAF hexagonal crown with one game remaining. They will fly to Tuesday night's encounter against Panama in Panama City with a 6-2-1 record and 19 points.

Zusi said that finishing atop the hex did matter.

"I think it does [matter] for our confidence and for the possible seeding in Brazil as well," he said. "We want to win as many games as possible and possibly sneak into that top 10.”

Whether he starts against Los Canaleros, it remains to be seen, but Zusi certainly has some pleasant memories against Panama, having scored his first international goal against the Central Americans.

“It was my second cap for the team and I was able to get my first goal," he said. "It was definitely a special moment down there. I'm looking to repeat and get another win.”


   
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