October 15, 2013, the final day of CONCACAF qualifying. Mexico had suffered defeat earlier in the day, and they sat in 5th place in CONCACAF qualifying. Panama was leading the United States 2-1, and they seemed to be on their way to an intercontinental playoff with New Zealand. Mexico would be heading home, or so it seemed. With 90 seconds left in stoppage time, Brad Davis swung a ball into the box, and Graham Zusi headed it into the back of the net. The US had leveled the scoreline. Zusi had destroyed Panama’s World Cup hopes, and he put the Mexicans into the intercontinental playoff with New Zealand. El Tri would go on to defeat the Kiwis and advance to the World Cup.
December 14, 2008. A very windy Pizza Hut Park was hosting a rivalry on the biggest stage, as Maryland and North Carolina were playing for the National Championship. Just two days prior, Zusi had knocked St. John’s out of the tournament with a goal in extra time. Now, in the 67th minute, Zusi took a rebound off UNC’s goalie and slotted it home. The Terps took a 1-0 lead, which they would hold onto. In his final two games as a Terp, Zusi had scored two game-winning goals and lead his team to an NCAA Championship.
Zusi has become an emerging star in American soccer over the past few years. He helped to lead Sporting KC to a MLS Cups last season. He has come on to be a key piece of the USMNT over the past few years. He assisted two World Cup goals. He is only 28 years old, so he should continue to contribute to the National Team for years.
Zusi’s success is a tribute to Maryland’s soccer program. Zusi was not the only Terp that played on soccer’s biggest stage, as Omar Gonzalez is also a Maryland alum. The Terps produced two first round picks in the MLS SuperDraft this year, as Patrick Mullins and Schillo Tshuma were both selected.
Next time you watch Graham Zusi, be sure to remember where he started out.