KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Gyasi Zardes takes a good deal of heat for a first touch that sometimes skews to the heavy side. A lot of that criticism is unwarranted, the young LA Galaxy forward believes – and when two of those first touches go in the net, it's a little hard to argue with him.
That's what happened Saturday night, in the US national team's 4-0 victory against outmanned and outgunned Bolivia in the final tune-up friendly for next month's Copa Centenario.
“To be honest, me personally, I think I have a good first touch,” Zardes told reporters afterward. “It’s just sometimes I’m unlucky during games. That’s the beauty of soccer, but you can’t dwell on that. I don’t dwell on what people say because growing up where I grew up in [Hawthorne, California], a lot of people try to criticize you but yet they’re not the ones who are playing.”
Zardes opened the scoring for the Yanks in the 26th minute, one-timing Alejandro Bedoya's pass past onrushing 'keeper Guillermo Viscarra, and made it 3-0 in the 52nd minute with another one-time finish off Bobby Wood's assist.
“It feels amazing to get the start, but not only that, just to bag in two goals and get on the scoreboard,” said Zardes, who yielded to 17-year-old Christian Pulisic in the 63rd minute. “As a forward it’s nice just to get an assist or a goal, but more importantly, as a team player, it’s nice to get a win.”
Jurgen Klinsmann said Zardes is still a work in progress on the Yanks' front line, but praised him for his willingness to improve his game.
“Gyasi is an amazing character,” Klinsmann said during his postmatch news conference. “He's very, very hungry to learn. He's a great listener, and he knows that if certain things are not perfect yet, I'm going to work on it every day and I'm going to improve it.
“Sometimes it's perfect, and maybe the next day it's not so good, but it's totally fine – because every player has his strengths and weaknesses. So as long as they keep on working on those weaknesses and getting them better and better, it's totally fine. He's very straight in his thought process in front of the goal. He knows exactly what he wants to do.”
That's especially important for a forward, Klinsmann said.
“You have to follow your first thought,” he said. “That's crucial. If you start to have two thoughts, then you're going to get messed up. He was very calm, putting two goals in there, and the whole game he was involved. It's coming along.”
Steve Brisendine covers soccer in Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.