In three years at Bakersfield, Zardes developed into one of college soccer’s most prolific scorers with 38 goals and 18 assists over a 56 game span. However, Bakersfield wasn’t the only team that Zardes was suiting up for.
During the past two summers, Zardes spent time with the PDL’s Ventura Fusion where he tallied ten goals in 13 games. An incredibly formative experience for the young forward.
“Playing with the Fusion definitely helped me,” said Zardes. “I played various positions from forward to central midfield, but playing against teams like West Brom and Manchester City helped me see the skill level and the talent in Europe which also helped me think about practicing even more and dedicating everything in my will to becoming a better player”
During those friendlies against European competitors, Zardes garnered heavy praise from coaches and players alike including then-West Brom head coach and current England manager Roy Hodgson.
“It’s a great feeling for a kid like me because if a coach like Roy Hodgson from West Brom talks to my coaches and say that ‘I was one of the best players on the field’ that makes me feel great because I’ve been putting in all the hard work behind closed doors,” Zardes added. “Finally to have it be seen by a coach such as him, it’s a great experience that makes me feel wonderful inside because all the hard work that I put in is finally being realized.”
That hard work began as Zardes grew up idolizing Galaxy players like Cobi Jones, Landon Donovan and David Beckham. In fact, when Zardes returned home as his school went on winter break, he realized that he still had a Galaxy poster with Beckham’s likeness right above his bed. But perhaps no player influenced the young boy born to Brazilian parents more than LA’s current captain.
“I always admired Landon Donovan with his speed and technical skill,” said Zardes. “When I was with the academy team, Landon Donovan came out and said a few words, which was very inspiring because I look up to other players who work hard and have success on the field.”
But those Galaxy players aren't the only ones on the 21-year-old’s radar.
“I watched Thierry Henry and to this day, I watch YouTube videos of Thierry Henry with Arsenal, I definitely like to watch Cristiano Ronaldo and I love the flair that he has with his scissors [a type of step over dribbling technique],” said Zardes. “One of my favorite moves is the scissors and I love watching Robinho because he has this kind of swag to his scissors.”
With his contract finally signed, Zardes feels that he is already a step ahead of his peers, who are preparing for January’s MLS SuperDraft –even though he was considered by draft pundits to be a top pick.
“I definitely feel more comfortable starting before the draft because I know where I’m going to be based and I can start my training as opposed to those guys,” said Zardes. “Those guys are steady waiting and they don’t know where they’re going to go or which team will pick them up, but I feel a 100 times more comfortable knowing that I’ll be based in Southern California playing for LA Galaxy which is grand for me.”