Graham Zusi's rise no surprise 

September, 26, 2012

On the evening of Sept. 11, a few hours after Graham Zusi helped the U.S. men's national team secure a crucial win over Jamaica with a breakout performance in his first World Cup qualifying start, the phone rang in the home of Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was on the other end of the line.

"He was happy that Graham played very well, and was calling me I guess because of our conversations about him," said Vermes. "I think everyone was happy we all thought the same thing."

Vermes and Klinsmann speak often. After Vermes plugged the energetic attacking midfielder to the U.S. boss and others all year, Zusi's intelligent, effective display in Columbus was especially rewarding for the Sporting coach -- not least because his club, the MLS Eastern Conference leader, will continue to reap the rewards of Zusi's ascension.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.