Sporting KC: Time for Graham Zusi’s role to change in 2021

Sporting KC, Graham Zusi (Photo by Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
Sporting KC, Graham Zusi (Photo by Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images). /

Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi has found success but now it’s time for him to play a bit of everything

Sporting Kansas City has someone who can comfortably play right-back on a regular basis other than Graham Zusi, which has created a good problem for Peter Vermes to solve.

After Zusi went down injured due to a bad challenge from Francisco Calvo in early October against the Chicago Fire, Jaylin Lindsey became the starting right-back and was excellent for the remainder of the season. Lindsey played a big part in the defense’s success that completed four shutouts from the final seven matches in the regular season. He was excellent on the defensive side and showed improvements on the offensive side.

Zusi is scheduled to return to training by February or March. With Lindsey’s success last season, I would hope that Peter Vermes keeps the 20-year-old in the starting right-back role. Once Zusi does return to full fitness, I would like to see him take on a different role as more of a utility player within the team.

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At 34 years of age, Zusi can no longer be relied upon to give it his all for 90 minutes every week. We have seen Zusi’s struggles over the past two years, and now that the confidence in Lindsey is there, now is the chance to let Lindsey run with it.

Putting Zusi back in the starting job would only take valuable minutes away from Lindsey while also adding Zusi’s defensive vulnerabilities back in the mix.

What role should Zusi play?

I would like to see Zusi play a role similar to Jacob Peterson‘s role throughout his time with SKC. He won’t start every game, but he can come off the bench and provide a good veteran presence. Zusi would be capable of starting a game every once in a while, just not on a regular basis like he has done for his entire career.

The best option to make the most out of Zusi would be to turn him into a substitute role in a multitude of positions. He could become a good asset as a substitution for right-back, either wing, and in the midfield if needed. He has good experience in all these positions and would be more effective coming in off the bench while keeping him fresh.

The club has already made a move in the midfield with the signing of Remi Walter, and they continue contract negotiations with Roger Espinoza and Felipe Gutierrez while the January transfer window could give SKC the dilemma of selling Gianluca Busio for the right price. With the ineffectiveness of Daniel Salloi and the unclear futures of Gerso and Erik Hurtado, the options off the bench may be limited in the forward line unless Zusi is made available.

Taking all that into consideration, I would like to see Zusi try and give it another go upfront as someone who offers more of a playmaking role rather than a guy who can beat defenders on the dribble like Johnny Russell and Gerso. It would give SKC another option that they don’t currently have in the final third.

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The ideal situation would be for SKC to sign at least one other winger with Zusi being the other option off the bench. Zusi would only play right-back or in the midfield, if Lindsey or any of the midfielders needs a rest or is unavailable.