CARSON, Calif. – A terrific preseason brought great expectations for Gyasi Zardes, but the second-year attacker hadn't been living up to them – until Wednesday night.
Zardes, making his first MLS start since the season opener more than two months ago, set up Robbie Keane's opener with a sparking pass, then nodded home the second goal just before halftime as the LA Galaxy shook off some five weeks of frustration with a 2-1 triumph over visiting FC Dallas.
The young winger got the call as head coach Bruce Arena, his team in a thick sequence of games, rotated his attackers, switching back to a flat midfield line and using Zardes and Stefan Ishizaki to provide width.
Zardes played with great confidence, combined well all evening with Keane and made a big difference as LA (3-3-3) ended a four-game winless streak with just their third multi-goal game of the campaign.
“I said to him before the game it's important that he had a big game today, and he certainly did,” said Keane, who scored his sixth goal of the season. “He's a threat. ... He did well. He just needs to mix the game up, which he did tonight. Sometimes go at people – when you have opportunities for one-v-one, take people on. But when we have the opportunity to serve the ball, like [my] goal, for example, a little passing and it's a goal.
“He mixed his game up well tonight, and we got the rewards for that. And that's why he's probably one of our best performers tonight.”
Zardes' feed for Keane's goal was superb, a long, quick, ground-hugging ball that split three defenders and left the Galaxy captain in position to step past Jair Benitez, find an opening above the box and fire into the upper-left corner.
“I saw him open, and then I just tried to give it to him as soon as possible,” Zardes said. “… I tried to find him as soon as possible [in the game]. I know if I pass the ball to Robbie, I know I'll get it back.”
Zardes, who went to forward when Raul Mendiola came on for Samuel in the 74th minute, found space in front for his 44th-minute goal. It followed a free kick, and space opened at the top of the 6-yard box as Keane played the ball out of the box to Juninho on the left flank.
The Brazilian midfielder chipped the ball in the middle, and Dallas goalkeeper Raul Fernandez couldn't keep Zardes' header out of the net. It was his first goal this year and fifth MLS goal in his brief career.
“It's always chaotic when the ball gets played out,” Zardes said. “I saw Juni wind up, so I just made sure myself was in a good position. ... I looked around me, and I saw myself by myself. In a moment like that, you just have to try to put it on frame.”