CARSON, Calif. – Gyasi Zardes continues to amaze and thrill the LA Galaxy and their fans, seemingly eclipsing with every game whatever previous exploits amazed and thrilled.
It happened again Wednesday night, when Zardes scored two huge goals in a 5-1 romp over visiting New England, the first providing a two-goal cushion in the 18th minute and the second restoring that advantage at the start of the second half, a strike that broke the Revolution’s spirit.
That’s five goals in his last five MLS matches, eight in his last nine starts in all competitions. Is it time to stop thinking of Zardes as a midfielder?
"As long as he keeps continuing to learn and keeps continuing to score goals, and understanding how to be a striker and playing with someone else," said captain Robbie Keane, who assisted both Zardes goals, when the question was posed to him after the game. "It’s not about just running in behind, it’s about linking up and playing with people and understanding when you play up front it’s a partnership and understanding when I have the ball he has to run off and understand where he’s going to go.
"Most of the time I’ll find him. If not, I’ll try to find him. I keep telling him just get in behind and I’ll find him."
Zardes seems to increasingly understand all of that. As a student of the game, Galaxy training sessions are something of a master class.
“I definitely have been listening to Robbie," Zardes said. "He’s constantly talking to me, even throughout the game. He’s giving me little tips on what he’s going to do, and he told me to pay attention to the first ball once you’re running through. We worked on it in practice, and we did it in the game. When Robbie gets the ball at his feet, I know he’ll find me.”
Zardes slotted inside the near post for his first goal when Keane played a quick, short pass after Stefan Ishizaki won a battle with José Gonçalves on the right flank. He beat Chris Tierney in the Revs’ goalmouth to deposit a nifty feed from Keane on the left for his second to give LA the momentum they needed for the second half. New England coach Jay Heaps called them the goals "that really broke our back."
"He’s becoming a real player. And I’ll say it again, if teams want to focus on other players on our team, then he’s going to punish them," Landon Donovan said. "And so eventually teams have to pick their poison, but we’re just going to let him keep playing and keep playing well and just do his thing."
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Zardes credits his teammates for all of his success – it’s almost a postgame mantra for the second-year forward – and admits it means a lot to him because he grew up going to Galaxy games.
"I feel honored because not too long ago I was that same kid in the stands yelling at [former LA defender] Sean Franklin, yelling at Donovan," he said. "I was telling some of the guys the other day that my first autographed ball was from [former LA goalkeeper] Kevin Hartman, and I used to keep that ball under my bed."