CARSON, Calif. – The 2017 MLS season is one-third completed, but for Gyasi Zardes, it might as well just be getting started.
Zardes has gone 607 game minutes without a goal for the LA Galaxy, a span of nearly nine months. But there’s been little consistency over that period, with Zardes suffering an injury to end last season and begin this one – as well as bouncing around from winger to striker with a handful of different strike partners.
For head coach Curt Onalfo, who spoke to reporters after practice on Wednesday, knowing where Zardes is coming from tempers the expectations placed on the team’s only true striker in their full-strength starting lineup.
“Gyasi has played the third least minutes out of anybody on our roster,” Onalfo said, “and that’s including all preseason games. That’s including guys that play minutes with Galaxy II.
“So then you add on top of that, he got injured in August of last year. This is just his preseason.”
There’s some creative math in play there. On the senior roster in 2017, Zardes has logged more minutes than Baggio Husidic, who stepped up with Jermaine Jones injured – or Rafael Garcia, who will now have to step in for the injured Husidic. Still, compared to the Designated Players and other prominent names on LA's roster, there is a clear disparity in playing time.
Couple that with a reduced preseason after his injury at the end of the US national team's January camp, and it’s less surprising that Zardes is still finding his feet.
“He’s gotten progressively sharper with each game,” Onalfo said. “He’s not where he needs to be, but he’s moving in the right direction.”
Where Zardes needs to be is scoring goals, a feat he hasn’t managed since August of last year. He knows he has to do better, but feels he’s starting to round into fitness.
“As I play more games, I’m starting to get back to where I was," Zardes said. "I’m getting more comfortable, fitness level is rising. So I just have to trust the process and keep working hard, because I know I’m not where I want to be, but it’s coming.”
Even without a goal this season, Zardes is committed to doing the little things to keep his team’s momentum going.
“Movement,” he said. "As a striker, you create space for other players. A certain move I’ll do will create space for Giovani [dos Santos] or Romain [Alessandrini]. As a striker that’s what you have to do, constantly keep defenders on their toes.”