Zardes Looking to Bounce Back in 2014

Gyasi Zardes has been working hard in the offseason to make 2014 a season to remember
by Jamie Pham   |   Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Galaxy of Angels – column on Los Angeles Galaxy (LA Galaxy) & the LA soccer scene.

2014 will be a breakout year for Gyasi Zardes as he aims to bounce back from a shaky rookie season. 

Zardes is naturally a forward, but he spent most of the 2013 season playing in the left midfield after the LA Galaxy traded Mike Magee to the Chicago Fire. Though Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan held most of the attacking duties, Zardes struggled to finish as he had 4 goals in 29 games with 83 shots. 

But he is looking to change that this year.

As the start of the 2014 season nears, the LA Galaxy are reminded of his potential. His skills, size, strength, speed, and maturity will all be much-needed assets to the team this year. 

Zardes already has 2 goals so far this preseason. The first coming in a friendly against Armenian champions, FC Shirak, when he fired a shot from beyond the penalty area passed their goalkeeper. Zardes was a second half replacement for Samuel and his presence was immediately welcomed, as his speed was a handful for the Armenians. 

His second goal came last weekend in the Central California Cup against LA’s rivals, the San Jose Earthquakes. He took a pass from Donovan and raced down field passed 3 defenders and launched the ball from outside the penalty box into the back of the net.

“The one motto that I keep in my head is to focus on the now,” Zardes said after the game. “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.”

Scoring goals will ultimately boost the youngster’s confidence considerably. Zardes, who is a product of nearby Cal State Bakersfield, scored 38 goals in 3 years with 33 of those goals in the last 2 years of his college career. 

Last year, most of his shots sailed high or wide of goal, which was something he wanted to work on in the offseason – in which spent a lot of the offseason working on finishing drills in training.

“Very good finish by Gyasi,” LA manager Bruce Arena said after the FC Shirak game. “Obviously, something I don't think he would have finished that play last year.”

When Zardes heard about Arena’s remarks, he replied, “Yeah, definitely. I agree with him. … Last year I wanted to blast everything. I felt like I was more composed. Once I collected the ball, then I just looked up and placed my shot.”

One thing that is uncertain is his place in the starting lineup. Arena signed strikers Rob Friend and Samuel (on loan) in the offseason. Along with Keane, the forward positions will definitely be crowded even with Donovan moving to the midfield, most likely into Zardes’s old position in left midfield. Even if Zardes comes on as a sub, his presence will be greatly felt and needed as the Galaxy tries to make their way back to the top this year.

The Galaxy will have 2 more preseason games (closed-door scrimmage against UCLA and another against LA Galaxy II) before kicking off the 2014 season against Real Salt Lake on March 8.

NEXT UP: March 8 – Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, StubHub Center, Carson, Calif. 10:30 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

Jamie PHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Pasadena City College
Club Domestic:
LA Galaxy
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Former tour manager turned sports blogger, Jamie spends loads of time reviewing the Los Angeles sports scene and is a big MLS and USMNT supporter.
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