CARSON, Calif. – Gyasi Zardes is hitting his stride and it couldn’t come at a better time for the LA Galaxy.
The 22-year-old forward scored his fourth goal of the season in LA’s 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday. Zardes’ four tallies after just 13 games equals his 2013 rookie season mark when he scored four times during 27 appearances.
For a team that endured a 2013 season without an effective third scoring option behind MLS All-Stars Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, Zardes’ maturation is a major boost for LA.
“It was a good finish,” said Keane after the win over RSL. “Scoring goals is a habit and the more that you do it, the easier it comes. That’s how you feel as a striker and he’s certainly feeling that now so long may it continue.”
Added Donovan, “With young players a lot of times, you get a lot of excitement and talent, but you don’t get the end product all the time. Part of being a mature player is being effective and he’s been effective. You don’t look at him and say that he was the most exciting player on the field tonight or say that he had all these great chances, but he was effective. He ran hard, he defended well and when he got his chance, he scored. That’s all you can ask for.”
Ever humble, Zardes attributed his recent scoring run to LA’s midfield who have been integral in opening up lanes for the striker to exploit.
“The game is slowing down but only because my teammates slow the game down. When they are connecting in the midfield, they’re slowing the game down, as opposed to just kicking the ball out wide,” said Zardes. “They are the ones that are really controlling this game. When I play up top, it’s much easier making runs and just working off Robbie [Keane]. I’m telling you, playing with these guys is just a wonderful experience.”
And the striker’s latest finish, his second game-winning-goal of the season, was yet another team effort.
“I saw Marcelo [Sarvas] running wide so I just made sure I was running in the box. I saw it going to Landon [Donovan] but he had a guy on him, so I told him to leave it,” Zardes said. “He dummied the ball and I took a touch and just tried to strike it very fast just because I knew a defender was trailing behind.”
With plenty of games left on docket in 2014, the Galaxy know that Zardes hasn’t peaked quite yet, but they’re confident that he’s maturing into the third attacking option that the team needs.
“He’s doing well and he’s progressing the way that we want to see him progress,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “He’s making steady progress and not hitting as many peaks and valleys [as he did in 2013] so those are all good signs.”