CARSON, Calif. – Gyasi Zardes' evolution has come in starts and stops this season, as is natural, and he's been building up toward the performance he gave in the LA Galaxy's SuperClasico romp on Sunday afternoon. The club hopes it's the start of something special.
The rookie attacker, who has slowly blossomed on the left flank, was responsible for the first three goals the Galaxy netted in their 5-0 destruction of Chivas USA, putting the third away himself, and nearly set up another in his best showing as a professional.
“Gyasi was unstoppable today,” said Robbie Keane, who scored in the sixth minute following a superb Zardes ball to Landon Donovan at the right post – a makeup for not putting away a Zardes feed in the opening moments. “That's what we've been waiting for and expecting from him since he walked in the door. To be fair for him, there's been a lot of pressure on him and people expecting probably too much too early.
“But he stepped up today, and you can see every week he's certainly getting better and better, and if he continues to play like that, he's a nightmare for any defender, because no defender wants to play against someone with his pace and his trickery.”
Zardes' skill set is well-suited to the wings, which made the move in early August from his natural position up front – a maneuver designed to pair Keane and Donovan at forward – seem like genius. He's been dangerous nearly every game, and the breakthrough came early Sunday as he exploited space on the left, repeatedly destroying Chivas' Carlos Alvarez and Mario de Luna to set up chances.
The Keane strike followed a cross that passed four defenders en route to Donovan, whose little feed the Irishman finished. In the 23rd, Zardes delivered a similar ball, behind three defenders, and Donovan was alone to knock it home. Then he scored one of his own three minutes later, collecting Keane's ricocheted shot, making space for himself and beating Goats goalkeeper Dan Kennedy at the left post.
The goal, Zardes' fourth in MLS, was vital for him.
“He's a confident kid – to keep that hair all year, you've got have some confidence,” Donovan joked. “I don't worry too much about that, but it's always good to hit the net, and it was important for him to hit the net.”
Associate head coach Dave Sarachan, who guided the Galaxy as Bruce Arena served a suspension, said Zardes has “been like a caged lion in terms of getting some points on the board.”
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“He's been pressing, and we spent some time in training, but hopefully it paid off, in terms of recognizing moments when he can really use his speed to get by guys,” Sarachan said. “I thought he did an excellent job in the first half in finding those moments, to find space to use his speed to beat defenders.”
Said Donovan: “He was terrific tonight. He's been working all year on doing the things that he did tonight. And they haven't always come off during the season, but you can see him getting closer and closer.”