When Gyasi Zardes stepped toward the Fourth Official to make his debut for the Colorado Rapids Saturday night, it was the US men’s national team forward's first chance to impress his new team 24 hours after a trade from the Columbus Crew.
There were new colors and a new crest for Zardes, but for Rapids head coach Robin Fraser, it just felt right.
“I'm so excited to have him. He's an incredibly hard worker. He fits in. I feel like he's a Colorado Rapids player through and through,” Fraser said after the Rapids’ 0-0 draw against Charlotte FC. “He's unselfish. He works extremely hard. He's very team-oriented, a very good person and I really feel like he's going to be very, very good for us because I think he's our people.”
Zardes made his Rapids' debut on the hour mark, which Fraser said was always part of the plan as the forward had to get acclimated to the altitude and a new team in a relatively uneventful final 30 minutes.
“I know it was a quick turnaround, but just to be a part of this group, I'm excited to start this new journey,” Zardes said after the match. "As far as the game for myself, I had to get adjusted to the altitude right away. But, you know, it's about understanding the players that are on the field with me. I had a brief meeting with the coach this morning and watched a bunch of film just so I can get acclimated with how we defend and also how we attack.”
Zardes said this week will afford him the chance for more in-depth conversations with his new coaches and teammates, more chances to feel comfortable in his new surroundings.
With Miguel Berry winning the starting No. 9 spot in Columbus, Zardes said he welcomed the chance for additional minutes in Colorado, something critical for the 30-year-old, especially in a World Cup year.
“This is the next chapter of my career and I'm excited,” he said. "Because it's important as you look not only at the MLS level in the season, but you look at the national team level, as well. As a striker, you have to be playing games, you have to catch form, you have to be scoring goals to even get a sniff at representing your country.”
After a promising start to his professional career with the LA Galaxy, Zardes got to hit the reset button with the Crew, helping lead Columbus to the MLS Cup title in 2020. He scored double-digit goals in each of his first three years in Ohio, including 19 in his first season, and nine a year ago when he started splitting time with Berry.
Can the move to the Rapids provide another new-team bump for Zardes? That’s certainly the hope for a club that desperately needed help up top.
“I think he's going to be very good for us because he's unselfish and he works extremely hard and he's talented,” Fraser said. “So I feel like he's a really big addition for us and I certainly think it's going to be very, very beneficial for us to have him here.”