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Zardes reinforces position high on USMNT forward depth chart with strong March camp


No player helped himself more during the U.S. Men’s National Team’s March friendlies than Gyasi Zardes.

The Columbus Crew forward, who has started all four games under Gregg Berhalter, played a role in both goals scored in the last two games, and on Tuesday against Chile he was one of the best players on the field for the USMNT.

By scoring against Ecuador, assisting on Christian Pulisic’s goal against Chile and showing improvement over the course of two games, Zardes firmly implanted himself near the top of the forward depth chart.

With Jozy Altidore recovering from injury, Bobby Wood out of USMNT camp and Josh Sargent off with the U-23’s, Zardes took full advantage of his opportunity to impress Berhalter.

Zardes’ positional understanding and movement were on display on Tuesday, as he got into open space to create chances against a difficult Chilean side.

The 27-year-old forward also disspelled some qualms about his touch and delivery, as he brought down Ethan Horvath’s long ball in the fourth minute and sent a superb assist in Pulisic’s direction to put the USMNT ahead at BBVA Compass Stadium.

But as we should with every performance so far under Berhalter, we have to look at how Zardes fits in the long term with the full first team group.

At 29, Altidore should still be seen as the top target man on the USMNT’s forward depth chart until someone can consistently force him to the bench.

Altidore might not be the lead striker at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but he should be one of the go-to guys up top for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup at minimum.

Wood is still too up-and-down for club and country to trust him as the No. 1 striker, but he did score three goals in 2018 for the USMNT.

Sargent is the future of the position, but there’s more of an immediate need for him at the U-20 World Cup, which would likely take him away from earning significant minutes at the Gold Cup.

If you look at the top options at forward, Zardes is somewhere between second and fourth on the USMNT depth chart.

It’s possible he can overtake Wood if he continues to put in consistent performances with the Crew, or he could still be viewed as strictly a reserve option once Altidore and Wood come into camp.

Timothy Weah, Jordan Morris, Andrija Novakovich and others could be seen as contenders to play up top, but it’ll be hard for Berhalter to look past one of the most consistent players in his short time as USMNT manager.

Since he was paired with Berhalter in Columbus, Zardes rediscovered his scoring form by netting 19 goals in 2018, and that’s translated to the international stage through the goal and assist earned against Ecuador and Chile.

Make no mistake about it, Zardes is still far from the top forward on the depth chart, but the strides he’s made under Berhalter show he can be a solid contributor once the entire first team gathers this summer.


  1. As I noted below, last year Sargent averaged a goal every 130 minutes, and Wood averaged a goal every 170 minutes. They are also both technical players. Zardes this year is on 1 goal for 330 minutes. Even Ramirez managed his only goal in just 18 minutes over 2 cameos. I get people are thirsty and found a puddle but over the horizon where the coach isn’t pointing you, are strikers with a far higher strike rate. Sargent and Wood and Jozy would probably be on a hat trick or more against this schedule so far this year. This is getting absurd and cult-like.

    • In 2017, the last season when we played a full schedule with a GC, Pulisic and Dwyer averaged a goal every 120 minutes, Dempsey averaged a goal every 127 minutes, Morris a goal every 140 minutes, Jozy averaged a goal every 213 minutes, and Wood a goal every 230 minutes. Sargent and Weah weren’t playing yet. Where a goal every 330 minutes fits into that echelon is self evident.

      • Sorry, this is antiscience, antimath rubbish. The USMNT only meets as often as it does. it does not play 34 or 36 or 38 game schedules to make you happy. The players then score what they score. The annual stats off the USMNT website are what I used, and, to be real, are about what can be offered on the matter. There is not some magical sample size deal, and if I went back and totaled what Zardes has contributed over the years relative ro others — and made you happy as a pseudo stats guy — you wouldn’t like it. The basic deal remains given 4 games this season, almost every minute, he has one goal which was a richochet that beat a keeper foolishly off his line. In other recent years players have scored as many as 9 goals in his spot (Dempsey). I also showed a long list of other options all scoring goals at no less than 50% higher a rate. Nitpicking that is lame. I want a forward who scores, not some myth that his coach props up. Last, I can’t help but notice you didn’t come up with some replacement analysis, you just tore down any attempt to understand anything because USMNT doesn’t play often enough to make you happy. That’s no excuse for tossing out the numbers we do have.

  2. This is the beauty of being a piss poor player: the day you look half-competent people write columns about how good you played. Just like Bradley

    • I mean am I the only one who has noticed his only goal this spring is a ricochet over a keeper way too far out? And no one seems interested that maybe if we fielded the right forwards all these games are huge blowouts and not these grinder affairs, that the right players would be sitting on hat tricks by now. He’s improved but not so much it matters.

  3. Fool’s gold. He has a simplistic approach to playing central striker, runs straight to the 6, no near post runs to clear space for others, no delay runs. He should be playing Baird’s wide spot, where his speed makes him a superior choice, and with a full team should be a bench player. I don’t buy in a serious contest he is a better choice than Sargent or Wood or Jozy inside, or Pulisic or Weah wide. I think our schedule has flattered him like it flattered the team in general. That being said, he has always been a decent wide player so I am not flipping the other way pretending he sucks. I just think if you watch closely, while his touch has improved, he actually gets found with the ball rather little (worse than Jozy), and his runs are very basic, easily defensible, and not the sort of stuff that opens space for others to score. As with Adams playing right back it’s another case of coaching ego overriding good sense. And he does just enough occasionally enough where it can be justified, even though I think a better offense rips up those 2 teams we just played. Mexico had 3 goals on Chile and they seemed to be ripe for the counter.

    • As the article states- he likely isn’t top choice but I think he is much better suited to a central position. His hold up play is much improved and his touch as well- his runs need work but are improved. He also does a very good job of pressuring up high.

      I just don’t/haven’t seen him do anything effective offensively on the wing. You certainly aren’t going to get good crosses from him, and he isn’t a player that will beat someone off the dribble cutting inside. What he can do there is provide heaps of energy and defensive effort. So perhaps protecting a late lead I’d put him out there.

      Dude is a worker- the real shame is the lost time he spent early in his career under Arena- NOT a place to develop. His time under Berhalter has shown marked improvement.

      • I would gladly agree he has improved technically, but his runs are naive and easily defensible against the elite, and I think people have basically forgotten in his presence and their absence how technical Sargent and Wood (or Green) are, or that even Jozy is probably similar foot skills. You cannot compare what the coach omits, and that’s basically what a guy who gets 4 straight games can hide behind, is the myth his competition is Ramirez or something. I mean, break it down and he has as many goals for the year (1 in 331 minutes) as Zimmerman, Mihailovic, Lletget, Pulisic, or Ramirez. Wood had 3 goals in 520-odd minutes. Sargent had 2 goals last year in 260-odd minutes. But, in their absence as claimed “coach’s choice,” coach’s pet looks better despite just one goal in 4 games being given coach’s pet minutes.

      • Klinsmann stunted his growth as well putting him at winger, when i always thought he should have been played up top

    • Zardes was a consistent starter under Klinsmann, now a consistent starter under Berhalter, a consistent starter under Arena at the Galaxy. Before he went pro, he was offered a contract by Roy Hodgson in England (I think for West Ham at the time, but not sure). Either all those top coaches are wrong, or you underestimate his value. Gee, who to choose?

      • You’re leaving out the parts where (a) everyone but Berhalter on that list was playing him (or would have played him) wide, (b) he is not better than Wood, Sargent, or Jozy inside, no matter how much you think he is improved, and (c) we now have Pulisic and Weah who could start wide and are star quality. If you want to bet GC, LoN, or even World Cup quali on this, have at it. I will happily tell you I told you so later on. This is presentist rubbish that wouldn’t have flown a couple months ago and won’t fly later on when it runs aground in the games with actual money on the table. In fact this argument would not have been made during the camp cupcake games when we would get the goals after he subbed out. IMO it’s the sort of argument you can only make because the other options who would show him up are being left with U23 or off entirely where they can’t make their case.

      • Anyone that has watched Gyasi in MLS knows he is a much better CF. It is not even remotely close.

    • His assist for Pulisic was very nice, but I wish we could have longer memories than this. The entire game vs Ecuador we were in dire need of a central pivot we could roll the ball in to and have the CF lay it off to runners around him. It never happened…. Lets not forget the absolute sitter he whiffed on which luckily turned out to be offside. We have all seen Zardes many many times. He is not technically skilled enough to be a regular in the national team. I really like Zardes as a player too. Athletic, very willing runner, works very hard for the team but not good enough. Technically a liability and not a good finisher at all.
      CF is a huge weakness for us. Jozy or Wood arent the answer for us but may be the best short term options. We really need Sarg to be ready sooner rather than later. Tim Weah has really quieted down after a fast start in Scotland.


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