CARSON, Calif. – No one is subscribing to the saying ‘New Year, New Me” quite like Gyasi Zardes.
The 26-year-old endured a nightmare 2017 that saw the striker’s season decimated by injuries and ineffectiveness. In just 24 matches, Zardes tallied two goals and two assists as the Galaxy limped to the worst record in Major League Soccer.
The year left Zardes frustrated and eager to do whatever he could to leave it behind him and start anew in 2018.
"I paid attention to my body during the offseason. I had a lot of off time, so I utilized that time to make sure that every single injury that occurred in the past was taken care of," Zardes told reporters after January camp opened on Thursday. "That was my main priority, and the focus was staying healthy in the offseason. Mentally, I’m always positive, and I’m always honest about everything. I’m good."
Despite his struggles, Zardes was called up to the U.S. national team’s annual January camp by head coach Dave Sarachan to serve as a veteran in a group that is predominantly made up of newcomers to the international game.
Sarachan made one aspect quite clear, however. This was no handout. Zardes was with the national team because the former Galaxy assistant remains confident of his future in the international game.
"It’s an advantage knowing players and I do know Gyasi. He had a tough year with injury, but he’s still at a good age, and a player that I believe can play at this level," Sarachan said. "Confidence is always a big thing, but it wasn’t a handout. I think he belongs in this group. He’s a little bit older than the rest of the players, but he’s got 37 caps. It is important to have guys that have been part of it along with the younger ones."
Once the camp concludes, Zardes will rejoin a Galaxy team influx that is still adding pieces after their poor finish in 2017. Even the homegrown talent himself has not been immune to rumors that he could be dealt as the Galaxy continue their makeover.
However, the-ever confident Zardes isn't fretting about any outside distractions. Instead, simply keeping his focus purely in the moment.
"It’s an amazing opportunity to represent your country. I’ve been in the previous January camp, and it’s a stepping stone into the season. I’m going to be pushing myself to the limit, and you get better by doing so," he said. "It’ll be great to keep testing my ability.
"I’m always positive, and I think things happen for a reason. Now, I’m happy and really looking forward to this year."