What Graham Zusi does for Sporting Kansas City…beyond the obvious, that is

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You only need to read the box score to see that Graham Zusi clearly contributed to his team’s 2-1 win Sunday in Chicago – a huge result, this win on the road, for a team that had managed just one lone victory since May.

The goal scoring and the goal arranging have arrived at reliable and valuable rates for more than two years now. But clearly, the U.S. international’s contributions are more than goals and assists. He wouldn’t be a first-choice U.S. international now if it was just about the net out.

For me, his comprehensive skill, hard-wired experience and all-around know-how were all captured in one 20-second sequence in the first half.

On one end, Zusi successfully prevented Chicago’s Jalil Anibaba from successfully getting off a cross. His defensive tracking, assisted by a big engine and devotion to fitness that always sees Zusi testing out among the higher end of the curve, is always dependable. And while his one-one-one defending may not be quite that of something like Chance Myers, it’s more than enough for someone who is generally assigned to the field for his attacking, not his tackling.

A few seconds later, Zusi is on the ball again and moving through the midfield. It’s what he does at that moment that was most impressive: he paused. And then he played a nice, safe pass laterally.

Zusi knew intuitively at that moment that what his team needed was a little possession, a little break from defending. Having fallen behind, 2-0, the home team was increasingly grabbing hold of the game. Zusi correctly adjudged that what his team needed at that moment wasn’t another goal. (Well, obviously any team can always use another goal … so maybe it’s more precise to say his team didn’t need another rush at goal that was far more likely to produce a change of possession than a third goal.)

What his team needed at that moment was possession, a little time on the ball to provide a break from the defending, to make Chicago chase for a little while instead of the other way around.

I know it sounds obvious – but so, so many players would have kept steaming forward, all guts and glory, but not nearly enough thoughtful approach.

By the way, all of this happened along the left, which is the other point to make. Zusi usually patrols areas center or right. But being this versatile is another of the assets that has made him such a fixture for club and country.

FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT vs. Costa Rica — Gold Cup semifinals

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The last time the U.S. national team faced Costa Rica, the final score was 4-0 in favor of the home side, in San Jose (not the one in California). Six days later, Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and replaced by Bruce Arena.

On Saturday, it’ll be Arena’s USMNT which takes on Los Ticos with a place in the 2017 Gold Cup final on the line. One of Mexico and Jamaica, who’ll face off in the second semifinal on Sunday, comes next.

When: 10 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

[ LIVE: Gold Cup scoreboard ]

Arena has made five changes to the team that beat El Salvador 2-0 in Wednesday’s quarterfinal. Incoming are Graham Zusi (for Eric Lichaj), Matt Besler (Matt Hedges), Jorge Villafaña (Justin Morrow), Kellyn Acosta (Gyasi Zardes) and Jordan Morris (Clint Dempsey).

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

West Ham sign Arnautovic from Stoke for club-record fee

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LONDON (AP) West Ham signed attacking midfielder Marko Arnautovic from Stoke for a club-record fee on Saturday.

The fee wasn’t disclosed, but British media said West Ham paid an initial 20 million pounds ($26 million) that could rise to 25 million pounds ($32.5 million) for the 28-year-old Austria international.

Arnautovic is West Ham’s third signing of the summer, after right back Pablo Zabaleta on a free transfer and goalkeeper Joe Hart on loan.

“We have brought in three players with vast Premier League experience this summer,” West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan said, “and that was one of our key targets.”

Arnautovic, who has 62 caps for his country, joined Stoke from Werder Bremen in 2013. He scored 26 goals in 145 appearances for Stoke.

MLS Snapshot: 10-man NYCFC too much for McCarty-less Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less): New York City FC spent 78 minutes at a man disadvantage, fewer than 72 hours after drawing MLS-leading Toronto FC midweek, against the second-place Chicago Fire on Saturday. It the end, this week shall go down as the back-to-back which put to bed any lingering questions regarding NYCFC’s MLS Cup-contending credentials. Four points from two games against the league’s top-two teams — Patrick Vieira’s side (37 points) now sits a single point back of Chicago, two back of Toronto. As is typically the case, David Villa’s fingerprints were all over Saturday’s win at Yankee Stadium, as the reigning MVP scored the opening goal (in typically stunning fashion) before so nearly setting up one or two more as the back-and-forth, frantic second half wore on. Frederic Brilliant scored what turned out to be the winner just three minutes later, as David Accam canceled out Villa’s opener to make it three goals scored in seven minutes.

[ MORE: Clint Dempsey goes for USMNT goals record, back home ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Kappelhof slides through Herrera, no penalty given — Maybe VAR will be good?

12′ — Herrera sees yellow again, and he’s gone — Herrera’s first yellow was questionable, but there’s no doubt about the second, just four minutes later.

47′ — Villa smashes on the full volley for 1-0 — This is approximately the 197th time I’ve written the phrase, “David Villa, take a bow,” since Spain’s all-time leading scorer came to MLS.

50′ — Brilliant heads home in traffic for 2-0 — It takes guts to put your head into a sea of flying feet the Brilliant does here. Fortunately, his face is intact and the Frenchman was duly rewarded.

54′ — Accam hits and prays, makes it 2-1 — Don’t think; just hit it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Villa (47′), Brilliant (50′), Accam (54′)

Pele’s son’s in jail on drug trafficking charges in Brazil

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SAO PAULO (AP) A son of Brazilian soccer legend Pele has returned to jail to serve a sentence of more than 12 years on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

A Brazilian court Friday ordered Edson Cholbi do Nascimento returned to jail after turning down his appeal.

He is a former goalkeeper with Pele’s old club Santos and was first arrested in 2005, though he remained free pending the outcome of his appeals.

In 2014 a court convicted him to 33 years in prison. That sentence was later reduced to 12 years, 10 months.

In late February he turned himself in to complete his sentence and in early March a court ordered his release and allowed him to remain free while fighting the sentence.

He has denied any wrongdoing.