24 Under 24: Gyasi Zardes earns a top 10 finish on the back of strong rookie campaign

LA rookie Zardes ranked 7th among list of best young MLS stars

7. Gyasi Zardes

Pos: F | LA Galaxy | Age: 22

After starring at CSU Bakersfield for three years, Zardes has stepped into the star-laden LA Galaxy lineup and fit right in. Bruce Arena has used Zardes as a regular starter since late May and has played no less than 83 minutes in each start. The 22-year-old forward – who scored 38 goals while at Bakersfield – first hit the back of the net coming off the bench on May 11 and has been a change of pace to the Landon Donovans and Robbie Keanes of the Galaxy attack. Arena said in late August that Zardes “gets better every game.”

What TDs and coaches like: "Physically imposing. Before he was more than anything else a forward with a lot of speed and things like that, but right now they have him playing left midfielder. He’s more disciplined, more tactical, more aware of the game. ... He has the possibility to make it to the next level. ... He’s definitely an up-and-coming prospect. The future is great. The future is very bright. ... He has all the tools and he’s playing with good players around him. That is invaluable when you put a younger with Robbie Keane or Landon Donovan. He’s in the right place. Size and everything else matters. ... Athletic. He’s got soft feet for a big man. He’s proven at the college level that he can score goals in bunches. Right foot, left foot. Scores with his head. He’s certainly a guy that’s got tremendous upside moving forward. ... He's got size, speed, athletic ability. He's dangerous one-v-one on the dribble. In a lot of ways he reminds me a little bit of Eddie Johnson when he was younger – he's kinda been billed on ability. He's a handful."

Where TDs and coaches want improvement: "He’s young. He’s still making mistakes. That’s a normal process of development for him. ... I think one of the weaknesses that we’ve seen with him is maybe he doesn’t play as big as he is, so I think getting a little bit stronger and being able to handle those individual, physical battles is something that he’s going to need to get better at. But overall assessment is the kid has huge upside and has the ability to be a real big star in this league for a lot of years. ... It's obvious that there are going to be things in his game not as refined – maybe he's not as clever in a situation of managing a game, and maybe it's a decision of when to take a player on and when to keep the ball. So there's definite growth there, similar to Eddie Johnson and you can see how he's matured. I think Zardes will go on that same path."

Opta Says: Gyasi Zardes leads all players eligible for 24 Under 24 with 7.5 touches in the attacking penalty box per game during the 2013 season.
 

Tale of the Tape
Last Year in 24U24: N/A
Castrol Index (as of 9/19/13): #69

2013 Stats
Matches played: 21
Matches started: 17
Goals: 3
Assists: 1

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