CARSON, Calif. – “He’s been like a caged lion in terms of getting some points on the board.”
LA Galaxy associate head coach Dave Sarachan knows that Gyasi Zardes has been desperate for an offensive breakthrough and on Sunday, he didn’t mince words when describing the left-sided midfielder’s stellar performance in LA’s 5-0 victory over Chivas USA.
On Sunday, Zardes was unfettered as he repeatedly got behind Chivas’ right-sided tandem of Carlos Alvarez and Mario De Luna with explosive runs that resulted in a goal and two assists in the opening 30 minutes of the SuperClasico romp. Zardes’ ability to blow past defenders is nothing new, but against the Rojiblancos, he was able to show the type of attacking edge going toward goal and the finishing quality that has been a major point of contention for the youngster in his first season with the team.
“He’s been pressing, and we spent some time in training, but hopefully it paid off, in terms of recognizing moments where he can really use his speed to get by guys,” said Sarachan, who has frequently worked with Zardes following Galaxy training sessions in recent weeks and filled in for suspended head coach Bruce Arena on Sunday. “Today, I thought he did an excellent job of finding those moments to find some space to use his speed to beat the defender.”
Zardes revealed after the match that he felt that the Chivas right-sided pairing was “inviting” him down the line with “a lot of space and freedom” and once he had the opportunity, the rookie took hold of his chances.
The first came inside the game’s opening minute when he got behind De Luna and fired a cross that found Robbie Keane for a chance that sailed just wide of the net. However, the next time he found himself behind the defense in the sixth minute there was no miss as Zardes fed Landon Donovan, who collected the pass and played it into the path of Keane for the game’s opening goal. In the 23rd minute, Zardes again got past De Luna and found Donovan, who easily beat Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, giving Zardes his third assist of the season.
Zardes’ finest moment, however, came three minutes later when a deflection off a Keane pass found the Homegrown forward behind the defense. With only Kennedy to beat, the rookie expertly slotted his shot past the ‘keeper for the fourth goal of his rookie year.
“It definitely feels great [to score],” said Zardes. “But I keep in my mind that I have to play better each and every single game and just keep working hard. ... It was a great performance and I just have to build off of it and play better next time.”
Just more than 30 minutes into the game, Chivas USA pulled Alvarez and replaced him with Eric Avila. As a result, the space along the right side began to dissipate, but Zardes nearly found his second goal with just more than 10 minutes remaining in the second half when he found himself free with the ball on his right foot in the center of the Chivas’ penalty area, only to fire his shot well high and wide of the target.
However, at that point, the result was long since determined and Keane was quick to heap well-deserved praise on the young Homegrown forward.
“Gyasi was unstoppable today, that’s what we’ve been waiting for and expecting since he’s walked in the door,” said Keane. “To be fair to him there’s been a lot of pressure on him from people probably expecting too much too early but he stood up today and you can see every week that’s he’s getting better and better.”
The Galaxy don’t believe that the performance will really lift Zardes’ confidence, after all he’s not lacking in that one bit as Donovan quipped postgame that “you have to be confident to have that hair all year.”
But what the rookie’s showing could do is provide a little pep in Zardes’ step as he looks to develop into a legitimate scoring option for the Galaxy during the playoff hunt.
“If he continues to play like that, he’s a nightmare for any defender,” Keane added. “Because no defender wants to play against someone with his pace and his trickery.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com