CARSON, Calif. – Gyasi Zardes enjoyed something of a breakthrough performance in the LA Galaxy's SuperClasico victory Sunday night over Chivas USA, but what it demonstrated perhaps most of all was how far he still has to go.
The rookie forward scored the lone goal in the 1-0 decision at the StubHub Center, a 44th-minute header from Landon Donovan's free kick that caromed in off the left post. He would have scored another if not for Dan Kennedy's typical heroics and perhaps a few more with a little better precision, but at his best he was an electrifying if inconsistent presence.
“He's getting better,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “Obviously, he can be a little bit better in front of the goal, has a few chances tonight, but certainly the goal was a real good one. A good effort on the night by Gyasi, and he's going to get better. His feet got to get a little bit better, he's got to be a little bit better with his touch in front of the goal, but on the night, certainly a good performance.”
Zardes, making his fifth successive league start, seemed to find his footing about a half-hour in, and he was a handful for Chivas' defense until he took his leave in the 87th minute. On his own, he outshot Chivas, 8-6, and had three shots on frame to just one by the Goats.
“I thought he was very good,” said captain Robbie Keane, Zardes' partner up front. “He's very quick and very good in the air, as you seen today, so he's certainly grown the more games he plays. Scoring goals and playing a lot of minutes is certainly going to help him.”
Zardes' runs are more sophisticated than earlier this season, and his passing is evolving into a strength.
“Little things are starting to happen a little more slowly for him,” Donovan said. “He's not as hectic and rushed as he had been. His passing has gotten better. Initially, he was, I think, just focused on making some space for himself and getting a shot. Now his passing has gotten better, he's a little better holding the ball, so we've just got to keep moving him on.”
Zardes says the time on the field has been a “huge confidence booster” and that he's improved by paying “attention in practice to Robbie and Landon, all the runs they make, and I try to ditto their movement. He knows he needs to be more precise in the finish.
“I had a couple opportunities,” he said. “Wish I could have put them away, but it was a good performance by the Chivas defense.”
As Zardes matures, the Galaxy wants more from him.
“He still needs to do a better job of hitting the target when he gets chances,” Donovan said. “There's a lot of guys doing a lot of hard work to get him open looks like that, so when he gets those looks, he needs to hit the target more often.”