When Major League Soccer played its first game on April 6, 1996, I was an 11 year old kid spending my weekends playing soccer for Rock Run Express in Rockford, Illinois. I was excited for the new league and the opportunity to immerse myself in the sport. Not having a local team, I found myself drawn to the Kansas City Wiz and their star player, Preki. (Maybe it was the jerseys?) Over the years, I’ve kept a soft spot in my soccer heart for the club, but I’ve recently been mulling over one question: Who is the star of Sporting KC? And who have been the stars of the franchise? Assuming that Preki is the franchise’s greatest player, I believe that Graham Zusi could be the 2nd greatest player to put on an SKC jersey.
Zusi has played his entire professional career for SKC (2009-present), and he’s had a respectable career with the USMNT (55 caps). Here’s his profile from mlssoccer.com:
And here is where he falls on SKC’s all-time lists:
- Games Played: 6th, with 218. 22 back from 1st.
- Games Started: 8th, with 178. 50 back from 1st.
- Minutes Played: 7th, with 16,440. 4,175 back from 1st.
- Assists: 2nd, with 56. 42 back from 1st. 0.26 Assists/Game is 4th all-time.
- Shots: 5th, with 326. 667 back from 1st.
(NOTE: These numbers appear to be from the start of the season. I don’t think SKC’s website updates them game-to-game, especially as Besler and Zusi were honored on 8/18/18 for having the most club regular season appearances.)
He is also the all-time leader in corner kicks taken, showcasing his set piece ability, and he has a career pass completion average around eighty percent, highlighting his technical ability.
Historically, Zusi is easily a Top-10 player in Kansas City history. The field players that are consistently around him are Preki, Kerry Zavagnin, Nick Garcia, Davy Arnaud, Matt Besler, and Benny Feilhaber. I think it makes Zusi’s career at SKC more impressive that he, a defender, is comparable to the attacking players on the lists – especially his assist numbers. Also, Zusi helps anchor a team known for its defense, especially as the goal-scoring rate continues to climb around MLS.
Graham Zusi just turned 32 years old on 8/18/18 and could play another three or four seasons in the MLS. If he does, he should climb into the top five of most of Kansas City’s records lists. However, his contract is up at the end of this season, along with the contracts of other starting defenders Besler and Sinovic. SKC must choose to re-sign their veteran and franchise great, or make a change. We’ve seen the youth movement this year – Busio, Lindsey, Salloi – but SKC is going to need to reload fast if they want to continue to compete with the likes of FC Dallas, LAFC, and Portland. Whatever they choose, there is no denying that Graham Zusi has cemented himself as an all-time great for the franchise. And I sure have enjoyed watching him.