Graham Zusi Matt Besler

MLS Media Day: Graham Zusi impressed by rise of MLS


Next up at MLS Media Day was Graham Zusi, who’s engaging responses revealed a man enjoying life in MLS and not looking for a move abroad.

Thoughts on the upcoming season? 

It will be a busy year but busy is good. At Kansas City, we’re going to put the same goals ahead of us as in past years. We’re taking CCL very seriously and we want to be the first MLS side to win it. We took the time to appreciate what we accomplished last season but we’re now focused on what we need to do.

Discuss the preparation for facing Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League.

We’ve put a lot of emphasis on our pre-season games. So we’re using those as tune-up matches and taking them a bit more seriously than normal. We need to come into the CCL ‘mid-season sharp’. It’s unfortaunte that it’s so early in the season but we’re doing our best to ensure success.

KC may have three guys going to the World Cup — any worries? 

I don’t think we’ll focus on the national team when we’re with the club and vice versa. I’m going to consider my time with the club as being as precious as possible because I have the potential of missing several games for the World Cup. I’m going to try and put Sporting in the best place I can before heading to Brazil.

We do have 2-3 guys who might go but I don’t think it’s an issue. We’ve seen so many guys step in like Soony Sad and Dom Dwyer, who not only filled a void but made cases for themselves to be starters.

How do you view the growth of MLS?

I think if you look at the national team at this point there’s a strong contingent of MLS’ers making play for the national team. Then you look at the league in general, guys coming back. The respect for the league is growing throughout the world. In a few years time we’re going to be one of the best leagues’ in the world.

Tim Cahill believes the Supporters Shield is more important than MLS Cup. Where do you stand?

I tend to agree with Cahill. At KC, we put a big emphasis on being the best team throughout the season. I know it’s not always the team that wins MLS Cup but for us we put a lot of emphasis on winning the Supporters Shield. That consistency throughout the season can carry you through the MLS Cup. We’re going to try and be in that mid-season form, early on.

What happened at KC after winning MLS Cup? 

You saw a lot of guys sticking around building themselves up. I think it’s that mentality of being the best, that expectation of excellence, that mentality that goes top to bottom.

How do you view Toronto’s spending?

I think it speaks to the direction this league is headed. The willingness of owners to dish out that kind of money is incredible. I’m excited to see that Toronto team play.

For me it’s just an exciting time in the league. You know, it’s all kind of coming together. Seeing the Bradley’s and Edu’s wanting to come and be a part of it.

As far as Kansas City goes, I can’t speak enough of the transformation. The transition between the Wizards and Sporting is one of the best success stories you can think of. Different MLS markets have to approach it in different ways.

How does what’s gone on in MLS affect your decision to go abroad?  

There wasn’t really a decision because I can’t say there were many offers to go abroad. So it was a fairly easy choice to remain where I am. MLS is where I’m growing my game the most. Training and competition is very high and it’s the best spot for me at the moment.

MLS Cup Playoffs: LA Galaxy 3-1 Real Salt Lake (video)

Los Angeles Galaxy defender Jelle Van Damme (37) congratulates forward Alan Gordon (9) for scoring against the Real Salt Lake during the first half of a knockout round MLS playoff soccer match in Carson, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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The game in 100 words (or less): The LA Galaxy are through to the conference semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs, where they’ll take on the Colorado Rapids beginning Sunday, for the seventh time in eight years with a 3-1 knockout-round triumph over Real Salt Lake at the StubHub Center on Wednesday. Alan Gordon put the home side ahead inside the first quarter-hour before RSL drew level seven minutes later, but Emmanuel Boateng bagged a quickfire brace to complete a pair of brilliant individual exhibitions of dribbling inside the penalty area. With Steven Gerrard unavailable and Robbie Keane only fit to feature off the bench, Bruce Arena turned to Gordon, who gave way to Keane early in the second half after picking up an injury of his own, to play the fulcrum of the Galaxy attack, and it worked to near-perfection during the opening half-hour. Landon Donovan started the game and played 87 minutes, providing the kind of defensive work rate that’s been missing up and down the flanks of LA all season. Sebastian Lletget put in a near-flawless passing performance while playing deep in midfield. Don’t look now, but those are the Galaxy’s biggest question of 2016, all just about answered as the playoffs begin. I won’t say, “I told you so” if/when they win MLS Cup 2016, but…

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

14′ — Gordon finishes from close range for 1-0 — Landon Donovan -> Giovani dos Santos -> Alan Gordon. Just like Bruce Arena drew it up in preseason midseason last month this week this morning.

21′ — Plata converts from the spot after Morales’ dive — Javier Morales was angling for a penalty from the moment he entered the penalty area. All Emmanuel Boateng had to do was look at him, and Morales was going down.

26′ — Boateng weaves through to make it 2-1 — Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Boateng took advantage of some poor defending, and the Galaxy were back in the lead.

34′ — Boateng cuts inside, blows past his man, makes it 3-1 — There’s playing in top gear, and there’s having an extra gear that you rarely have to use because no one else on the field has it. Boateng falls into the latter category.

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

Men of the match: Emmanuel Boateng

Goalscorers: Gordon (14′), Plata (21′), Boateng (26′, 34′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: Toronto FC 3-1 Philadelphia Union (video)

Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): 10 years later, Toronto FC are MLS Cup Playoffs victors. For eight seasons, the playoffs eluded them altogether. Last year, they were one-and-done in embarrassing fashion at the hands of their local rivals. In 2016, it was  their year — a proclamation we’d heard plenty times before — and so far, they’ve lived up to the hype. Wednesday’s 3-1 home victory over the Philadelphia Union in the knockout round gets the monkey off the Reds’ back, but more importantly, afforded Sebastian Giovinco, who bagged a goal and an assist on the night (his second straight game with such a line), 90 more minutes of game time after missing more than a month through injuries as the regular season wound down. After 270 minutes of action, the Atomic Ant looks sharp as ever, and destined to terrorize New York City FC, whom TFC will face in the conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

15′ — Atlidore feeds Giovinco for 1-0 — The first playoff goal in TFC’s 10-year history. Poor goalkeeping, ball-watching defending, terrible touches, an overhead cross, and a strike off the crossbar. There’s a lot going on here. Watch it all right here.

49′ — Osorio slams home from the corner for 2-0 — The Union have been bad at defending set pieces all season, so is it at all surprising a set-piece gaffe effectively ended their season? No, it’s not.

73′ — Bedoya puts the loose ball home for 2-1 — Speaking of failing to effectively clear a corner kick, the Union were gifted a lifeline 15 minutes before full-time.

85′ — Altidore puts it out of reach, seals it for TFC — Ken Tribbet did not have the best night a center back has ever seen. His final blunder resulted in Jozy Altidore reclaiming TFC’s two-goal lead, and ending the Union’s 2016 season.

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

Men of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Giovinco (15′), Osorio (49′), Bedoya (73′), Altidore (85′)

Men In Blazers podcast: Mourinho’s Chelsea return; Bradley’s 1st point

Men In Blazers
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Rog and Davo break down Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea with Manchester United, another stumble for Manchester City and Bob Bradley’s first Premier League point.

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VIDEO: Altidore, Giovinco combine for TFC’s first-ever playoff goal

Sebastian Giovinco
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
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It’s been 10 years in the making, and Toronto FC finally have their first-ever goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

After failing to qualify for the playoffs in each of their first eight seasons, 2015 saw the Reds venture into the postseason for the first time ever, only to be thumped in the knockout round, 3-0, by their 401 derby rival Montreal Impact, of all sides.

This is the year, though, or so we’ve said and been told all season long. While it remains to be seen how deep of a run TFC can muster in 2016, they’ll always have the Jozy Altidore‘s terrible first touch; Altidore’s wayward second and third touches; Altidore’s overhead cross; and Sebastian Giovinco’s strike, all of which you can watch in all its hilarity glory below.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Playoffs edition | MLS Cup predictions ]