CARSON, Calif. – Gyasi Zardes began the season as a promising prospect up top for the LA Galaxy, but with the stellar form of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane up top, the 22-year-old rookie has settled into a regular role out on the left flank.
Zardes has started 16 straight league matches for the Galaxy dating back to late May, but over the past month, he’s transitioned from a forward into Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena’s first option on the left side of midfield. With Arena striving for a regular wide presence to open up space for his talented forwards, Zardes’ speed has made him a regular in the lineup.
Despite playing out wide, he’s still managed to become involved in the attack as he’s averaged 2.4 shots per game in the five games since making the switch. The shots may be coming for Zardes, but the rookie has yet to register a goal in that time, having last scored on July 20 against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, which has the forward hungry for more consistency.
“I feel like I have to be consistent and that’s the way that it is with everyone,” Zardes told LAGalaxy.com. “You just have to practice hard and take every single opportunity and really place importance on repetition. Like when I cross the ball well, I need to do it again and again.”
Consistency has been an issue not just for Zardes, but for the entire team at times during the season—particularly when playing without the services of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan. When playing without that duo, the Galaxy offense has been lacking as 20 of LA’s 43 goals have come from the duo. In fact, 10 of the team’s last 11 goals came from either two forwards.
In last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids, Arena entrusted young forwards Jack McBean and Jose Villarreal with the duties up top while Zardes was given the task of stretching Colorado’s defense out wide. The operation had mixed results, however, as all three had decent opportunities, but were unable to find the back of the net.
“Any player being in any position needs to be consistent game in and game out,” said Arena. “I don’t need spectacular play; we need consistent play game in and game out from all of our players.”
Zardes may be on the precipice of that consistency, however, as he’s steadily developing into a major asset in the attack—especially when the Galaxy have their full complement of players on the field. When Donovan and Keane are on the field, Zardes is afforded greater space along the flank as defenders key in on the two Designated Players up front. This space allows him to make dangerous runs that in turn often create room for other members on the Galaxy attack to operate.
His final touch is the last aspect that Zardes is striving to improve upon as he admits that he’s trying to overcome issues with “mechanics and confidence” that are causing him to mishit many his attempts. When that issue is corrected, he believes that he can become that much more of a dangerous weapon for the Galaxy going forward.
“I just try to be a threat with every opportunity that I get and that’s just going to ease the pain from Landon and Robbie when I am dangerous,” said Zardes. “I feel like when I make a run, I have to be a threat, they have to be goal scoring opportunities and when I get a chance, I have to put it away.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com