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Sporting KC 2020 Year in Review: Graham Zusi

The fan favorite and USMNT veteran gets his year reviewed.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Sporting Kansas City Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 MLS season has come to an end and much like we did in 2019 for Sporting Kansas City, it’s time to look back at how each player performed. Keep in mind the stats look diminished for many players, but just 21 regular season games were played in this COVID shortened season (instead of the typical 34). For the full list of players reviewed, head to our dedicated Year in Review page.

Week One

Week Two

The Blue Testament continues our look back at 2020 with another controversial, yet popular figure, Graham Zusi.

2020 Stats

Games Played (Started): 15 (14)

Minutes Played: 1,224 (still 7th on the team despite his injury)

Goals: 1

Assists: 1

xG (expected goals): 0.86

Positions Played: Right Back

2019 Salary: $688,333.41

2020 Salary: Unknown - But likely at or slightly above 2019.

Contract Through (Option Years): 2021 (None)

Best Moment of 2020

His game against the Colorado Rapids during MLS is Back. This is a bit of a stretch as a nine man Rapids team scored on this defense, but Zusi was essentially up in the winger spot when that happened with Espinoza trying, but failing, to cover for Zusi. Zusi did “score” in this game off an awkward deflection, but on the whole he was simply dangerous in the attack, which is what I believe Peter Vermes wants out of him since his defense sometimes leaves something to be desired.

The other defining moment of the night was a Zusi shot hitting Diego Rubio in the hand and earning a penalty kick which Alan Pulido finished. It was a wild 3-2 game which showed some deficiencies from Sporting, but showed they could win ugly too.

Worst Moment of 2020

This has to go down as his season ending injury. He suffered it on October 7th against the Chicago Fire due to a nasty challenge from Francisco Calvo. Jaylin Lindsey took over for him (does that sickly make this Jaylin’s best moment?) and he would never look back. Lindsey started all the remaining minutes at RB in 2020 all the way through the playoffs. Neither right back was fantastic, but Lindsey is just 20-years-old with a long career ahead of him and this has to open the door for him to steal the starting job in 2021.

If preseason starts at the end of January, like MLS has stated (though that’s in doubt), then Zusi likely wouldn’t be ready as he was given a four to five month timeline which puts him as returning in late February at the earliest.

Interesting Stat

Four. In the six games Lindsey started at right back in the regular season after Zusi went down the SKC defense only allowed four goals, bolstered by three shutouts. The playoffs were obviously much worse to Lindsey and the defense (six goals in two games).

In the games that Graham Zusi was the starting RB before his injury, SKC allowed 20 goals over 14 games. It gets a little muddy as Lindsey was the starting left back in five of those games, including the embarrassing 5-2 loss to the Houston Dynamo. To me, it’s not clear which player is better as they both had their struggles. However, I would suspect Zusi has peaked and is on the decline while Lindsey should hopefully keep getting better and better.

Fan Vote Results

Keep: 50.2%

Release/Sell: 49.8%

There numbers are by far the lowest of any of the players we’ve reviewed so far this offseason. While I would suspect the casual fans would be stunned by these numbers, they make a lot of sense. Zusi is 34-years-old, which isn’t young in soccer terms (the only player older than him is Tim Melia, but goalkeepers play much longer typically). He’s coming off back-to-back seasons where he (and the defense as a whole) have struggled (though it might not have felt like it, they were much better in 2020). Sporting KC let go of one legend in Matt Besler after this season (so far — Espinoza still hasn’t re-signed as of this writing). 2021 could easily be the last season of another.