Gyasi Zardes has been turning heads during his stint with the U.S. National Team and now he’ll have an opportunity to win his first appearance for the squad when they take on Chile on Wednesday.
The LA Galaxy Homegrown product was among the 23 players that traveled down to South America late last week and is expected to be available for selection during Wednesday’s match against Chile in Rancagua.
“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity for myself,” Zardes said. “This is my first time with the national team and my first time experiencing it all.”
During his two week stint at the USMNT’s annual January camp he caught the eye of U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann who described Zardes as a “sponge” and also noted that if his development continues the striker who scored 16 goals for LA in 2014 could have a truly bright future.
“Players like Zardes are curious and want to learn. You want them to learn and understand that the game goes both ways and that if you lose the ball, and then you have to fight to get it back,” Klinsmann said. “That you never switch off and you can’t take it easy even during a training session. It’s challenging and demanding for them because we want them to make the right decisions. At the end of the day, being in these circumstances, they will get better and they will develop more confidence, but it only comes only over time.
“I think that Gyasi has, as Bruce [Arena] often says, an enormous potential for a striker,” he added. “He’s hungry for goal, he’s fast, he’s good in one-against-one situations and he’s just now learning the tactical elements of the game.”
The opportunity to enhance his tactical acumen under the guidance of Klinsmann has been central to Zardes’ experience with the national team this January, especially due to the German striker’s emphasis on classroom work.
“With Jurgen, we take classroom sessions that are about really learning the game of soccer both off the field and on. The first day of camp, I had to present to the group for the forwards on what the characteristics of a striker are,” said Zardes. “He picks our brains and wants to hear from us as players and how we understand the game. There were no right or wrong answers; it was all about expressing yourself.”
As he sets an eye what could be his first appearance with the national team, Zardes admitted that the discourse in Klinsmann’s setup has him playing “free and open minded.”
“He allows me to play a bit freer. He wants me to try new things but he asks that if I ever lose the ball that I work to get it back. I love it because he allows me to be myself and attack,” said Zardes. “I’m learning a lot because he was a phenomenal striker. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can because the players that we have here are very good.”
And when he ultimately does return to the Galaxy after the conclusion of the camp, Zardes believes that he’ll be all the better for it.
“It helps me tremendously because it is so intense with the U.S. and we have a great group of guys who really compete,” said Zardes. “This keeps me motivated and when I do go back to the Galaxy, I’m not going to take my foot off the pedal so that I can put forth what I learned with the national team to the Galaxy. I’m always going to be striving for more on both fronts.”