graham

In the waning moments of their team?s opening-round match at the World Cup, John Brooks rose up over a wall of Ghana defenders and thumped a header into the back of the net.

The goal secured the U.S. Men?s National Team three points, snapped a nasty trend against the African nation and proved to be the decisive result for the U.S. in what most deemed the ?Group of Death.?

Sporting Kansas City?s Graham Zusi remembers the goal better than most. It was his corner kick that sent the pro-U.S. crowd in Natal, Brazil, into frenzy, as well as the millions more watching around the world.

One year to the day, Zusi reflects on the assist and the goal that set the U.S. 2014 World Cup in motion.

?It?s seems like forever ago, but it?s one of the moments in your career that you?ll never forget,? Zusi said. ?Obviously I can?t take too much credit for it. I just tried to put the ball in a dangerous spot, and Brooks did the rest.

?Looking back on it, it was a fun one to get. It was a great way to start the tournament and a great three points for us.?

Surprising now is that Zusi wasn?t even a lock for the moment. Alejandro Bedoya started the match as Zusi sat idle on the sidelines waiting for his chance. In the 77th minute, Zusi entered for Bedoya. Nine minutes later, he delivered the ball to Brooks for the game-winning goal.

?All I remember really is that it was late in the match,? Zusi recalled. ?I kept telling myself that this could possibly be our last chance and that I needed to put it in a dangerous spot for us to get on the end of it, and we did.

?I don?t know if anyone really remembers what happened after that goal because I think we blacked out after that. It was just pure joy.?

Matt Besler wasn?t able to celebrate on the field with Zusi. Besler was stuck inside a training room at Arena das Dunas, watching the second half on a television after a hamstring injury forced him to sub off at halftime.

Nevertheless, Besler was ecstatic for his best friend, and in some ways it was the culmination of years of hard work after the Kansas City Wizards drafted the two in 2009.

?Graham is one of my closest friends and we?ve been through a lot together,? Besler said. ?We?ve been by each other?s sides through most of our professional journeys, so I was really happy for him. Partly because we won the game, but on a more personal level I was really excited to see his success. He?s been involved in a couple big plays (at that level).?

Zusi now has two World Cup assists to go along with an MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup medal. Where the first ranks, Zusi would not say, but it?s certainly a moment he?s not forgotten a year later.

?I try not to rank things in my career, but it?s one of those things that I?ll just never forget,? Zusi said.

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