The LA Galaxy got a huge contribution from Gyasi Zardes on Sunday, and it has a lot of fans and players excited about what it could mean. It's easy to read too much into a performance against a mathematically eliminated opponent playing out of formation, but the speed of Zardes and his ability one on one against a defender is something concrete.
Gyasi Zardes was a distributing machine on Sunday with five crosses, three key passes, and two big chances created. On the day the Galaxy were judged to have three big chances with two of them scored. It was Zardes' first minute cross that Robbie Keane couldn't slide in that was the lone big chance missed. Zardes then had a similar cross that Donovan was able to get on the end of standing up.
The long cross on the ground isn't going to beat every team, but Zardes showed great improvement on his timing threading it between the defenders and Dan Kennedy in goal. It's something he's been working on in practice, and a role he's been asked to play since Robbie Rogers hasn't been available. According to Dave Sarachan he's gotten down when to use his speed to beat a defender, but against Chivas we began to see part two.
"Part two is that once you've beaten the defender you get to serve it properly, which he did," said Sarachan. "He had two assists and got himself a goal. Production wise we are very pleased for Gyasi."
Zardes only took two shots, one which went in, another improvement over his earlier performances. Looking to distribute after he blows past a defender instead of looking to shoot is a change to his game approach. It's a mentality he'll have to keep over the next few months if the Galaxy want to continue to get efficient offensive production.
One significant change between this last match and the one against Portland is players having space to work in. Portland has their small field and plays a 4-3-3 to best utilize space, whereas Chivas surprisingly went with two forwards in the first half. Going up against a 4-4-2 on the wider field, Zardes was set free to play up top with Donovan and Keane.
"He's been working all year on doing the things he did tonight," said Landon Donovan. "They haven't always come off during the season, but you can see him getting closer and closer."
It's clear that inside the locker room, this is the role everyone is expecting Zardes to play. He gets listed as a forward and that's where he started the season at with both Donovan and Keane having to miss time, but when he came in pre-season Arena had him in the midfield.
" [Zardes] was unstoppable today," said Robbie Keane, "so that's what we've been waiting for and expecting since he's walked in the door. So to be fair to him there's been a lot of pressure on him from people probably expecting probably too much too early, but he stood up today and you can see I think every week that's he's getting better and better and if he continues to play like that, he's a nightmare for any defender because no defender wants to play against someone with his pace and his trickery."
The LA Galaxy suddenly have a player with pace and trickery on the wing. It's something that's been needed all season and it's great that it's finally starting to come together.