Gyasi Zardes showed signs of real promise in his rookie campaign during the 2013 MLS season, scoring four goals and two-game winning goals for the LA Galaxy. Zardes' four tallies were more than the total goals scored by LA's other young guns Jack McBean and Jose Villarreal combined (3). However, those goals came at a cost. Zardes took 13 more shots than Robbie Keane who led the team with 16 goals. More patience could have led to more assists than the four Zardes had or better scoring chances for himself. What's changed (besides the lack of competition from McBean and Villarreal who aren't with the first team)?
In fewer than half of the minutes he played last season, Zardes has already scored six times (including a team-leading four game-winners) while only taking the fourth most shots on the team. Zardes also scores nearly at the same rate (0.61) per 90 minutes as team leader Keane (0.63).
Zardes' Match Impact Rating of 42.0 is also vastly improved since 2013's 23.7. Even while reserving his shot attempts, Zardes' shots on goal are nearly the same this season as last. His points per 90 minutes have more than doubled to 0.70 and his scoring chance percentage has increased from 5.1 percent to 25 percent. His runs off the ball have also maximized his positioning in the attacking half (see below).
While things are going right at the forward position, Josie astutely pointed out that Landon Donovan's transition to CAM has been lacking in the production department. Donovan actually hasn't had any points as a CAM yet in six matches. If the Galaxy are going to overcome the problems in consistent offensive production that have plagued the team since David Beckham left, Donovan's going to have to figure out a way how to get things going. Otherwise, the transformation of Zardes is just swapping out the youngster for last year's Donovan for a 1-2 punch with Keane (without the passing) instead of gaining a balance that can win games when the stars are off-form.