Gyasi Zardes was raised just 10 minutes away from The Home Depot Center in Hawthorne with posters of Galaxy stars in his wall and in his heart, now he’ll have an opportunity suit up for his childhood club.
The 21-year-old striker from Cal-State Bakersfield signed officially with the club –in a deal that was first reported on the LA Galaxy Insider blog—as Homegrown Player on Thursday. Zardes becomes the fifth Galaxy Homegrown signing in club history and joins three other Homegrown Players—Jack McBean, Oscar Sorto and Jose Villarreal—currently on the squad.
The forward nearly signed a deal with the club a year ago, but opted to refine his game while moving closer to his vow to his father to obtain a college degree. He is now just two quarters away from completing a degree in Criminal Justice. Now, after spending his childhood watching the likes of Cobi Jones, Landon Donovan and David Beckham while also playing for the Galaxy Under-18’s and Under-20s, Thursday was truly a banner day.
“It’s a pretty exciting feeling to finally be a part of the LA Galaxy family. I have to say that the Galaxy are the number one club in my eyes in America. I’m thrilled to finally be a part of the club, but now, a new chapter in my life begins and it’s definitely going to be a hard work,” Zardes told reporters in a teleconference on Thursday. “Playing alongside Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan is going to be a thrill. I have to say that especially with the legacy that Galaxy have as back-to-back champions, it’s going to be great to put in the work and bring a third championship this season.”
In three years with the Roadrunners, the forward from Leuzinger High School in Lawndale was considered one of the top forwards in college soccer as he amassed an astounding stat sheet by scoring 38 goals and 18 assists in 56 games over his three year stint at CSUB. During his sophomore and junior seasons, Zardes stockpiled college accolades including being named a Herman Trophy finalist—college soccer’s version of the Heisman trophy—in 2011 as well as the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Offensive Player of the Year in both 2011 and 2012.
During his time in school, Zardes credits Bakersfield coaches Simon Tobin and Keith Costigan—a former Galaxy Academy coach—for helping him develop into a “cut-throat striker,” but finishing is just one of Zardes’ traits that he hopes will translate to the next level.
“I definitely think that my speed with the ball and without the ball is a powerful factor. I also think that my defensive work rate will also be a key factor,” said Zardes, who turned down offers to two German clubs Frieburg and Hamburg to sign with LA. “To be honest, every single player can work on every aspect of their game and I definitely don’t think that I have a particular weakness, but I definitely think that I can work on everything, but I also feel that I have a few attributes that will help me adapt to MLS quickly.”
But Zardes wasn’t simply impressing in college soccer as he spent the last two summers with the PDL’s Ventura County Fusion where he tallied ten goals in 13 games. While with the Fusion, Zardes faced top-tier competition in friendlies against EPL sides West Brom and Manchester City.
Zardes is certain to get added training on the Galaxy practice field as he will tasked with facing the likes of Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza and Tommy Meyer on a daily basis—a challenge that the 21-year-old is relishing among others.
“I don’t think of it in a negative way. It is definitely going to help me going up against big guys like them,” said Zardes. “One thing that I’ve definitely been thinking about is learning things from Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, they’re excellent forwards and I know that I can learn a lot from them. I’m just going to take as much advice so I can work as hard as I can.”
Ahead of what promises to be a rookie season laden with expectation and difficulties, the 21-year-old forward believes that he can contribute in his first year in MLS.
“I definitely feel like I’m ready for MLS, I have the heads up now and I’m already working physically and technically,” said Zardes. “I’m definitely going to be ready by the first MLS game. It is just up to me to prove myself.”
But just where does Gyasi feel like his level can take him in five or six years? Well, the sky is the limit.
“I definitely feel like I have the bite and edge to compete at a high level,” said Zardes. “I feel like within five or six years, I feel like I can be at the top of the top.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com