The chant began on the northern end of Sporting Park late Monday, a portion of the crowd repeating three words and four syllables as their voices grew louder with every echo. It gathered momentum in a hurried pace, until a sell-out crowd of 18,467 soccer fans offered a unified suggestion to U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
"We want Zusi!"
"We want Zusi!"
That never materialized.
And the U.S. men settled for a tie without him.
With Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi saddled on the bench, the U.S. and Panama played to a 1-1 draw Monday in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The Americans started slow — and thus allowed Panama to strike first in the opening half — before they used a Michael Bradley goal in the 55th minute to secure one point in the Group A finale. The U.S. will play in the Gold Cup quarterfinals Saturday in Baltimore.
"We're not naive. We understand there will be the need to continue to raise our game as the tournament goes on and the games become more important," Bradley said.
"But we welcome that challenge."
A minor injury prevented Zusi from embracing an admirable challenge from Panama, which now must await its fate for a potential spot in the knockout rounds.
Klinsmann said Zusi departed the team's practice Sunday with lingering effects from a "knock" he suffered Friday during a win against Haiti. Zusi warmed up Monday prior to the match, but he was left on the bench for the duration of it as a precaution.
"He would've been able (to play), but we didn't want to risk it," Klinsmann said.
Indeed, the risk wasn't necessary. By the time the United States men's national team arrived in Kansas City, it had already wrapped up the top seed in Group A. The opponent for Saturday's quarterfinal match is yet to be determined.
"The tournament pretty much starts now," Klinsmann said.
The chances for Sporting KC captain Matt Besler to join the team for the knockout stage perhaps spiked in the opening half.
U.S. defender John Brooks received a yellow card in the 16th minute, his second of the group stage, which will result in a one-game suspension for the quarterfinals. Brooks and Besler both play left central defender.
Besler was not included on the team's roster for group play, but he was on the 35-player preliminary roster, making him eligible for a knockout-round call-up.
After the match Monday, Klinsmann was tight-lipped when asked about any potential roster changes.
"We're open to anything," he said, before later adding, "I have some ideas, but I have 24 hours. We'll sit down, the coaches and I, back in the hotel and go through the entire roster and go through every situation."
Klinsmann said he plans to finalize the roster Tuesday morning.
For the third straight match, the middle of his young defensive line showed some inconsistent moments Monday. Panama put eight shots on goal, requiring seven saves from U.S. keeper Brad Guzan.
"We're not going to kid ourselves — we need to try to put together a complete 90-minute performance," Guzan said. "Obviously the conditions were quite warm for both teams, but in saying that, we need to find a way to make sure we start games (better)."