Last year was a revelation for LA Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes as he became the highest scoring homegrown player in a single season (19 goals across all competitions) and the first homegrown player to score in an MLS cup final. He ended the season as a bright new star for a team in desperate need of one with the imminent retirement of Landon Donovan.
The MLS champion rightfully earned a call up to Klinsmann's January camp and consequently began his international career. In the eight games (all of them friendlies) so far, Zardes has impressed with great passing, anticipation, touch, and even scoring. But those were friendly games in which the coaching staff was open to experimenting and letting players fail... today's game is no such game.
The USA are favorites now given Mexico and Costa Rica's injury woes, and that is a moniker they need to embrace. Great teams thrive under high expectations, and if we want to continue to climb the world's ladder, we need to consistently achieve expectations.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup will be Gyasi's first serious international competition with a lot on the line: a chance to be a mainstay with the national team, a chance to tie Mexico's total number of titles, a chance to play in the confederations cup, a chance to become a starter, and ultimately a chance to make a name for yourself outside of MLS.
Zardes needs to embrace that pressure and perform because arguably no other player has as much to gain or lose from this tournament. He is the only mls newcomer to the team, and as such will be making a case for taking that spot. Either way we will be talking about Zardes by the end of this tournament... he has a chance starting today to give that narrative direction.
Though this club season has been a mixed bag for the speedy forward, none of that matters at the national level so long as he continues to perform at a high level... just ask Michael Bradley who had an abysmal 2014 but is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance.
All this humble fan has to say is #IBelieve #keepthecup #questforsix
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