Graham Zusi, an integral part of the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team at the 2014 World Cup, talked with STACK about training, nutrition and life after the Cup.
STACK: Is there anything you’d like to work on in your game after this World Cup?
Graham Zusi: I look back at what experiences I went through in the World Cup, and I think that it is only natural to try to compare yourself to some of the best athletes and soccer players from around the world. You look at those players, for me in particular, Germany, the side that eventually won it, and you want to get to their level. It is only natural for a competitive athlete who want to be the best.
I look at them, their technical abilities along with their physical abilities, and you have to be honest with yourself. If I am honest with myself, I am not there yet. Particularly my off-season regimen is going to get a kick up. I think I can step it up a notch.
I think when it comes to that level, the margin and the differences are so slim that it is kind of more about immersing yourself into the experiences and learning from them. That’s the best way I can explain it.
How important was your diet down in Brazil?
It was huge. There was so much focus on our diet and nutrition and hydration. We had our own chef down in Brazil. I feel like all we did down there was eat, sleep, rest and hydrate. Those were the points they were constantly bringing up. We didn’t have to worry about it ourselves, because all that stuff was provided to us and being monitored. If you’re not getting the proper nutrition, then your body won’t respond.
WATCH THIS: Zusi Talks World Cup Preparations
Talk about your experience with the Gatorade Around The World Contest.
I’m down here in Bradenton, Florida at the IMG Academy, celebrating the winners of that contest. These kids are going to have an experience of a lifetime. Starting today they are going on a two-week journey that starts here in Bradenton and goes all around the world. They get to visit some of the most iconic and historic clubs, including Liverpool, Arsenal, Barcelona, AC Milan, Boca Juniors, and really get the sense of what it’s like to be a professional soccer player.
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What was your reception like when you and the rest of the USMNT returned to the States?
It was amazing. First, I would kind of like to preface that by talking about the support that we had down in Brazil. The U.S. traveled more fans than any country in the world. We really felt that. Every game that we played, it was a Pro-U.S. crowd. Easily 20,000 U.S. fans down there.
Seeing some of the videos and photos and reaction videos of the watch parties here stateside was incredible. Kansas City had thousands of people show up to their Power and Light District. Chicago had tens of thousands of people watching the game in that park. When I got home it was amazing. I think that this World Cup really brought soccer to a new level in this country. [MLS’s Kansas City] Sporting had a game the weekend that I got back—Peter Vermes had the idea of dressing me for the game. Not starting, but maybe coming on later in the game to give the fans a little bit of something to cheer about. It was one of the most special moments that I’ve had at that stadium. It was incredible. The fans were on their feet and I don’t think they stopped cheering for the last 10 minutes of the game. It was really amazing and something I won’t ever forget.