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Gyasi Zardes feeling right at home with USMNT

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By MARK EDWARD HORNISH

CARSON, Calif. – When Gyasi Zardes scored the opening goal in the MLS Cup in December, at home at the Stub Hub Center in front of friends and family, it would have been easy to imagine that the Hawthorne native had reached the pinnacle of his career.

In fact, he was just getting started.

Zardes will dress in red, white, and blue in front of friends, family, and an adoring home crowd again on Sunday when the U.S. Men’s National Team takes on Panama at the Stub Hub Center, where Zardes plays his club soccer for reigning MLS champions LA Galaxy.  After earning his first cap with the U.S. last week in Chile, Zardes is excited to show head coach Jurgen Klinsman that he belongs on the international stage.

“This feels amazing.  A dream come true.  Everything I dreamed about as a kid, it’s here” said Zardes before practice on Saturday afternoon.  “This is my home town, my home stadium.  Just to be able to play in front of friends at a live venue, it’s just going to be an amazing experience.”

While Zardes, 23, is a newcomer to the U.S. team, few young American players have generated as much excitement and anticipation.  In 2014 Zardes blew away the goal scoring record for Homegrown Players, scoring 16 goals in MLS, nineteen across all competitions.  His goal-scoring exploits caught the attention of Jurgen Klinsmann, who handed Zardes his first national team call-up last month.

“He confirmed what we already saw throughout the season, that he’s a very, very talented forward,” Klinsmann said of Zardes. “He’s very teachable. He’s listening, he’s eager to improve. He wants to do the extra shift every day. He’s hungry, so it’s really fun to work with Gyasi and I think he deserves to be a part of this group.”

Zardes knows that despite the accolades preceding him, he still has a long way to go.

“Obviously the coaches called me into this camp because they see something they like.  I’m just here to try to make a statement for myself, and to work extremely hard, and hopefully, they’ll like what they see.”

Zardes won’t be fazed by playing alongside the likes of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, or Jozy Altidore.  He has had more than a little exposure to elite talent in his time with the Galaxy.

“To be honest, I’ve played alongside some of the game’s best players, like Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez,” admitted Zardes. “These guys are phenomenal players.  Being in that environment every day, just helps me grow as a player.”

The time spent with the MLS Champions and their elite talent has helped Zardes prepare mentally as well as physically.

“Landon told me ‘It’s a long camp.  Take care of your body.  So I was ready” Zardes said. “Everybody gets nerves.  But once you catch the rhythm of a game, and if you catch it fast, there’s no point being nervous.  They players around you, when they’re great like this team, they will bring you into the game.”

Whether Zardes earns his second cap or not, he will have huge support from both Galaxy and USMNT fans, as well as his family.  When asked how many tickets he had to provide for his friends, Zardes laughed and said “Oh, man, I don’t even know the number.  A lot.  A lot.”

Comments

  1. First, you have a typo. I’d expect you to proof read your copy first. Please show us some professionalism. See second to last paragraph.

    ” ..They players around you, when they’re great like this team, they will bring you into the game.” Should read “the”, shouldn’t it?

    Secondly, you’re delusional. You talk about the MLS as if it were elite, full of elite players –” time spent with the MLS Champions and their elite talent”.

    I like Zardes. He orchestrated and set up the Dempsey goal with a great through ball. But, come on! Let’s all remember what the LA Galaxy looked like playing Man United at the beginning of the year. The contrast was graphically black and white. What was the score? 6-1? 7-1?

    The MLS is good entertainment, but the best players in the world play in Europe. And, with the new TV contract, the EPL will be attracting the most. Please swallow a dose of reality, take off your rose colored glasses, and see the truth, or you’ll never have credibility as an expert.

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  2. I am not saying anything bad about zardes but rubio is 18 and starting and he is playing well people don’t realize the difference between american soccer and real football. Aj needs a transfer he’s got to show it in a better league. I know rubio is in same league but its his first year and got more upside. I like them all and hope all do well.

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  3. Now we’re assigning records to players who fit a rule that didn’t even exist until 2008?

    Chris Wondolowski I’m sure would have a laugh or two at the idea of a goal-scoring record by a “homegrown player.” Give me a break.

    SBI should have a new post detailing the all time scoring leaders on, say, Tuesdays under a quarter moon. That would be just as relevant.

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  4. He is faster than Jozy, anticipates better, better first touch and is better with the ball at his feet. He has a better upside than Jozy. Jozy needs to sit and this kid given a chance. No more favoritism. It’s all about winning.

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    • WOW!! Ummm…OK.

      The kid has great upside but Jozy does not sit for Zardes any time soon. They are different players to begin with, but Jozy does what he does better than Zardes.

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    • I would say the biggest difference between them is Zardes makes runs where Jozy tries to fade off the defender into an open space. Jozy probably holds it up and combines better with his back to goal.

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    • Robbo, simply put, it makes more sense to hope Zardes becomes a striker partner up top for Jozy. They could work well off each other as Dempsey slowly phases out over the next 4 years.

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  5. I like this kid but where does he fit in for this cycle, I would take jozy, rubio, a healthy boyd over him, but he could prove me wrong and I hope he does cuz we need to beable to finish. I know people hate on jozy but he scores for usmnt.

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    • Why would you take Rubio over him? Because he plays in Holland? The guy scores 19 goals last year but in your book, it’s not enough

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    • I think there is place for him in the cycle. It’s a loooong 4 years and we all know how these things pan out. Why did you leave out AJ?

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      • There’s still just as many question marks about where AJ fits into the US line up. He has good poacher instincts but I’m not sure he’s really gotten back to the being the player that started last season. Also he’s hurt again.

    • I don’t see Rubin as a center forward for the US, might become of a Dempsey or Donovan midfield / forward type. Either cutting in from wide or playing under the striker. He’s really been most successful for Utrecht pulling wide and creating chances.

      I’d take a healthy Boyd as well but he’s pretty much lost a year and won’t be back for the Gold Cup.

      As we saw in the World Cup what does happen if Jozy goes down? Who is coming off the bench for him. There’s plenty of room and need for Zardes.

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