CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy are creating chances as of late—plenty of them, in fact. But putting them in the back of the net, well, that’s another matter altogether.
One player, who has rued his missed chances, is Gyasi Zardes. The 21-year-old rookie forward is blossoming into a genuine threat in front of goal, but is still learning the finer points of finishing. On Thursday, Zardes managed six shots against Columbus Crew on Thursday—though just one chance was on frame— as the LA Galaxy stormed back from a late deficit to win 2-1 on a pair of Robbie Keane penalty kicks.
As Zardes looks to maintain the place in the starting lineup that he’s held for the past seven games and hold off a push by fellow strikers Jack McBean or Jose Villarreal, he knows that he’ll have to start scoring.
“I really just have to keep working on finishing and keeping the ball on frame as opposed to shooting it off target, and I think it is all going to come together,” said Zardes after the victory against Columbus. “[Not finishing] really gets to me so I just have to keep working hard, I have to. There’s always competition out there. You never know. There’s always competition, so I just have to keep working.”
The chances are certainly coming for Zardes, who has become a mainstay in Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena’s lineup. Zardes has started the last seven Galaxy league matches, but became a real force in the attack over the club’s last four games. In that span, Zardes has rattled off 20 shots, but just five of them have been on target and the 21-year-old has scored only once in that time.
Zardes’ struggles are just a microcosm of LA’s difficulties scoring goals while generating a considerable number of chances. In that four-game span, Galaxy have 70 attempts on goal, but just 23 shots on target, and five goals. However, in a game where a few inches can separate jubilation from frustration, the Galaxy are encouraged that Zardes—and really, the entire offense—is knocking on the door step.
“That's what separates the men from the boys, generally. The players that finish off those chances make a pretty good living around the world. Goal scorers, you got to have a lot of respect for,” said Arena during his postgame press conference. “Gyasi is still young in the trade. He's probably been healthy for three months this year and hopefully, he's going to get better in the penalty area. That's the goal. The positive part is that each and every game, he's getting a bunch of good chances, so hopefully he'll start putting some of those away."
One forward, who has certainly separated himself among the top strikers in the league, is Keane, who rescued the Galaxy with his two late goals on Thursday. However, early on, Keane was not immune from LA’s lack of sharpness in front of the goal as the forward saw several early attempts either end in the hands of Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum or sail off frame, while also striking the crossbar in the 88th minute with the score tied 1-1.
Showing the poise of a veteran forward, Keane did not fail when presented with a pair of opportunities from the penalty spot, first in the 85th minute, and again in stoppage time. As he basked in his brace against Columbus on Thursday, Keane offered a few words of encouragement for his young striker partner.
“Keep plugging away. It happens to all of us,” said Keane. “When you don't score it’s in the back of your mind. When you’re younger it's a little bit different than when you’re old and you’ve been playing for a long time you know how to deal with it better. Someone like Gyasi, I’m sure he’ll be thinking about it, something that I used to do when I was younger, conjuring it in your head for days.
“The only thing you can do is just keep plugging away,” Keane added. “If he keeps getting put in spots it’s only a matter of time before he starts putting a few goals away.”
If Zardes does keep plugging away as Keane noted, then the rookie believes that the goals will come.
“I’m feeling confident, I mean everything’s there,” said Zardes. “It’s just [that] I have to be really consistent. I just have to keep having good plays and help it come along.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com