Jurgen Klinsmann has options for Brazil.
That statement was proved true once again on Friday night at Sporting Park in Kansas City as the United States' men's soccer team knocked off Honduras by a score of 2-0 with goals from Jozy Altidore and Graham Zusi.
Graham Zusi was the latest American to make a statement for more playing time as the U.S. officially eliminated Honduras from 2014 World Cup contention in the process.
The U.S. were sluggish and out of focus in the first half, and a 0-0 score heading into the intermission was the biggest indicator of the way the squad was playing. Sans Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Eddie Johnson, the USA struggled to find consistent play on either end of the pitch.
For a while, it looked as if the Americans—who have already sealed a trip to Brazil next summer—were taking the night off since the match had little meaning on paper.
Zusi came on at half-time for Landon Donovan and changed all that.
MLSSoccer.com's Greg Seltzer gave Zusi a score of 7.5 out of 10 for his performance on Friday night, noting that his movement and ability to get open gave Jamaica's defense problems in the second half. Of course, his goal was also quite impressive.
Facing down the realistic possibility of a draw, Zusi took matters into his own hands in the 77th minute. After Alejandro Bedoya kept control of the ball deep in the right-hand side of the box, he found Zusi cutting in and he slammed home the game-winning strike in front of his hometown Sporting KC fans.
U.S. Soccer's Twitter account had a video of the strike:
GOAL added this Vine of the score:
Altidore added some cushion just four minutes later, but it was Zusi who set the tone for the Americans and managed to provide the heroics his side needed on a night when confidence, cohesion and a collective team chemistry were otherwise lacking.
As noted by ESPN's Paul Carr, his insertion into the lineup allowed the U.S. to create more chances in their attacking half of the field:
The 27-year-old midfielder was the man of the hour Friday night, but when Klinsmann is picking his final roster for Brazil, the possibilities in that section of the roster will be tough to decipher.
Between Donovan, Bradley, Brek Shea, Bedoya and Jermaine Jones, team USA is loaded with talent and, simply put, Klinsmann won't be able to play a full complement of players in the World Cup next summer.
Are the U.S. legitimate contenders in Brazil as of right now?
However, Zusi is a player who is really coming on.
As noted by MLSSoccer.com's Steve Brisendine after the match, Zusi knows international minutes are hard to come by in any country. That said, he also knows that the kind of talent assembled in the U.S. is only bettered by the addition of competition for playing time.
"I think there's great depth in this team, and we're pushing each other each game and each practice as well. I think that competition is needed for a team to do well," he said, per Brisendine's report.
In a match the U.S. looked content with writing off, Zusi made sure it didn't go down as a draw—or worse.
He's fully earning his keep with the USMNT and don't be surprised if that trend continues as we inch toward the World Cup.
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