There is something unmistakable about the LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes.
It isn’t so much his blond Mohawk, but it is the talent that prompted the Galaxy to sign him as a homegrown player in December of 2012 and makes him one of the rising stars in MLS.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena already has seen enough to say Zardes’ future is limitless.
“He’s an incredible athlete,” Arena said. “Very rarely do you see an athlete with speed and endurance and he has that, and strength. He’s got to get his first touch a little bit better and he has to get a little more experience.
“He has the potential to be an exceptional player.”
Zardes’ rookie season in 2013 wasn’t exactly an unqualified success, however. Yes, he made 33 appearances in all competitions, including 27 regular-season games (with 23 starts), had four goals and four assists and his goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 20 was voted by Galaxy fans as the goal of the year. But ask him if he was satisfied and he’ll say he wasn’t.
Much of his disappointment was a result of preseason surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot that kept him out of action until April.
“It was very hard,” he said. “You’re sitting out for two months and you’re watching all these guys playing and you want to be out there. You start to get antsy. I was listening to Todd Dunivant and Landon Donovan and they used to always say ‘G, don’t worry about it, it’s a long season.’ And they were right. Our season goes from March to December, and that’s a long time.
“Just listening to them and their advice really helped me.”
The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder arrived in training camp this year looking more purposeful. Arena said he appears more confident on the ball and in his practice habits.
“There’s a huge difference,” Zardes admitted.
Rookie center back Kyle Venter, the Galaxy’s top selection in the recent MLS SuperDraft out of the University of New Mexico, faced Zardes when he was at Cal State Bakersfield and has been particularly impressed.
“He looks motivated,” Venter said. “Every day in practice he’s one of the first ones here and one of the last ones to leave.
“He looks really good.”
Zardes said having a year’s experience has made all the difference.
“One, you already know what to expect from other teams,” he said. “Two you feel more confident when you have the ball. I’ve played with these guys for a year now, so I know how they like to receive the ball. I know how to play with different players. Some like the ball at their feet, some like it into space.
“It’s great having a year under your belt.”
And his goals? Zardes isn’t so keen on revealing them.
“I keep them classified so it’s not there and people hold me to it,” he said with a smile. “I definitely want to be a better player than I was last year.”