Gyasi Zardes did something on Saturday that fans have been waiting for since his Homegrown signing was announced before he MLS draft: he scored a goal with his feet. It happened quickly, but since getting healthy Zardes has made fourteen appearances and ten starts. The second striker role is his as he continues to improve.
It's taken that many appearances to figure out what type of player Zardes is going to be for the LA Galaxy. He took forty-five shots before finally putting one in the back of the net with his foot. He's settled in a center forward, but not before being tried in the midfield as well as a 4-3-3 experiment which put him in a right forward position. Still Arena doesn't seem to think Zardes was taking the wrong shots, more that his fundamentals in the penalty area have needed work.
"[Zardes is] being a little bit better technically in the penalty area," said Bruce Arena. "His goal was an important goal. It's going to take a little bit of time with him; a young player for our league. He works hard and I'm confident he'll continue to get better."
There's no denying he's been working hard. Part of the anxiety with Zardes was that he showed a lot of skill on the ball and quickness to get behind defenders, yet he wasn't being rewarded on his shot attempts. His speed is something his teammates have come to understand about his game, with Dunivant launching the ball long on Saturday knowing Zardes could catch up.
"He's quick, I knew he was going to get to it," said Dunivant. "That's the good thing about Gyasi, you can put it out there and he's going to go chase it down. He showed his speed, he showed his quality tonight. I thought he was really good running at their defense. A lot of times he was one on three but he was still making them backtrack and put them under a lot of pressure. You see the potential he's got, and he's only going to get better."
That Zardes is already attracting two and three defenders is going to make things interesting when Robbie Keane gets back into the fold. Any extra defender Zardes can draw to him with his speed means a Galaxy attacker has been sprung free.
Of course, he showed on Saturday that double teams might not be a problem for the young striker. Popping the ball over one and shooting sideways before the double team got there, it was like Zardes is starting to see the game at a slower pace.
"It slows down," said Zardes. "Especially my teammates, [they] help me out a lot. They're talking to me more, each and every time. I'm just taking in everything they're saying and applying it to my game."
Certainly it seems Zardes has taken the advice he's gotten to heart. With that long ball from Dunivant, Zardes gave the signal for the long ball knowing he could run under it. He's communicating with his teammates and it's resulting in better opportunities inside the penalty area.
The more he works at it, the more his skill set will get refined and we'll see this young rookie's full potential.