FRESNO, Calif. – From the moment that he struck his Central California Cup winning goal, Gyasi Zardes knew that he had done something special, and that at last, his hard work was paying dividends for the LA Galaxy.
Zardes’ moment of brilliance came in the 54th minute when he was fed by a pass from Landon Donovan and then dribbled through three defenders—five in total were marking him—and then launched an off-balance shot into the back of the San Jose Earthquakes’ net to seal a 2-1 victory for LA. The goal is Zardes’ second game-winner in three preseason games.
After struggling with his finishing in his rookie year, Zardes couldn’t help but admire his goal—and the work that he put in to make it a reality.
“After I scored the goal, I thought that I’ve done what the coaches expect out of me. I pushed [the ball] past the defenders, I glanced at the goalkeeper and just placed the shot,” Zardes said. “It just felt good that it all came together as opposed to last season.
“I personally think that practicing more has helped me get better in game situations,” added the 22-year-old who attended college at nearby Cal-State Bakersfield. “It’s all coming together and I’m learning each day with my teammates who are really talking to me. They’re communicating with me and really helping me out a lot.”
Zardes admits that his approach to the game has been much simpler in his sophomore year as he’s elected to focus on the easy play, whether it’s turning and running up field or making a tidy pass to a teammate, instead of forcing the action towards goal. In several moments against the Earthquakes, Zardes’ maturity was on full display as he made well-timed runs, which were a stark contrast to the overly-eager approach that he showed in his rookie season.
Following the victory over San Jose, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena could not help but reflect on the development of his highly-touted attacker.
“He’s getting more and more experience,” said Arena. “He played a lot of minutes in 2013, grew from those minutes and is continuing to make progress.”
But Zardes, who once boldly proclaimed that his skill would “blow [people’s] minds,” knows that his work is far from complete.
“The one motto that I keep in my head is to focus on the now,” said Zardes. “I’m trying to improve each and every day and beat myself. If I played well this game then in the next one, I want to be better than I was.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com