CARSON, Calif. – It has been a season of stunning progress for the LA Galaxy’s Robbie Rogers and Gyasi Zardes. But in some ways it’s also been an unfulfilled one.
For as much as individual praise has come their way, both players maintain they haven’t achieved anything.
Arguably the Galaxy’s two most improved players have just one thing in mind, and it isn’t their growing reputation in Major League Soccer.
“I’m just focusing on how the team does in the playoffs and helping in that way,” Rogers said.
“I haven’t achieved anything yet,” Zardes said. “I want to win MLS Cup.”
Zardes, who just turned 23, was signed as a Homegrown Player in December, 2012.
The Hawthorne native had four goals in 27 games last season and finished fourth in voting for MLS Rookie of the Year.
This season he has 16 goals, second on the club only to Robbie Keane’s 19.
The 27-year-old Rogers came to the Galaxy in a trade involving the popular Mike Magee in May, 2013 and eventually was asked to switch to left back. A series of injuries have dogged him along the way, but he has developed into one of the league’s best players at his new position.
“This year kind of feels like a breath of fresh air where I can just come and train and not talk about stuff all the time,” he said recently. “Just focus on myself and the team.
“I think at the end of the year I’ll evaluate a lot of stuff. Right now I’m just focused on the playoffs.”
He might not like to talk about his progress, but coaches and teammates have raved about his play.
“I think when he played midfield he looked like a left back,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said with a laugh. “Obviously he’s had some injury problems over the years. But when we established the fact he’s playing left back and it’s a position he’s comfortable at and healthy and getting in a good rhythm he’s at times been very, very good.”
Added the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan, “Robbie is a talented, skillful player … a good passer, good crosser. And when he touches the ball a lot of it ends up being a good thing for us. On a lot of teams I think it’s a weakness when their outside backs touch the ball. On our team the outside backs are very good with the ball, and that helps us a lot.
“He’s an intelligent guy, an intelligent soccer player.”
Keane attributed Zardes’ stunning rise to nothing more than experience.
“Last year he was an apprentice learning the game,” Keane said. “In terms of what he’s achieved this year and what he’s done, goals and stuff, it’s been huge … huge.
“He understands the game a lot more, he’s making clever runs and he’s understanding how to play with people. The thing is the more games you play and the more experience you get, the more understanding you get for the game. The talent was always there.”
Zardes said his improved approach to the game helps, too.
“I feel more mature,” he said. “I’ve learned so much from my teammates and I’m going to try and keep progressing.
“My mindset is to just give it my all and bring it every game.”