LA Galaxy grateful to Zardes for gamely taking on unfamiliar fullback spot

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Gyasi Zardes might not be the right back of the LA Galaxy’s future, but they appreciate the forward’s willingness to try out the position as they try to look forward from their nightmarish 2017 season.

“We needed a right back,” coach Sigi Schmid told reporters after his surprise decision to move Zardes to the back line for Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City. “We had nobody and I think Gyasi’s strength is wide, whether it’s a midfielder or in the back.

“I thought Gyasi, for his first game in the back, I thought had an excellent game. There are obviously things he can pick up on still, but overall I thought he handled a very difficult situation very well.”

One of those things was getting caught too far up the pitch, as Zardes (and, to be fair, the rest of the Galaxy’s defenders) did several times in taking a high line against Sporting.

That was especially glaring in the 35th minute, when Ilie sent a through ball behind the defense to left back Seth Sinovic, setting up a long run that ended when Sinovic fed Diego Rubio for Sporting’s second goal and a 2-0 lead.

“I actually thought he did a fair job, but one of the problems is when you don’t have a lot of repetition in a situation in that position, you can make some mistakes,” said KC manager Peter Vermes, who made his own switch at the start of the season when he moved veteran winger Graham Zusi to right back. “And I thought that we exploited that well. I thought that Daniel [Salloi] had the best of that side quite a bit, and so did Seth. Our goals came from that area as well. But that’s the game.

“The one thing is, when you’re in those situations, you can easily not take advantage of it or not know how to deal with it. What we did well was that with their high line in the first half, I thought we exploited it really well. Especially down left or right, whether it was Zardes or not, I still think we would have done it no matter who was there.”

That kind of timing adjustment will have to be made if Zardes stays at right back – and for now, Schmid isn’t committing to any more appearances at the spot.

“If that’s where he ends up playing, it’ll come,” Schmid said. He’s an intelligent guy. He’s got the engine to play there. Today, he was helping me out as much as anything else.”

Midfielder Romain Alessandrini acknowledged the right-side struggles, but said he has already seen improvement from Zardes.

“For his first game, I thought it was good,” Alessandrini said. “The first half was difficult for him and for me because I think Sporting KC was playing with three players on our side because they forced me to defend. The second half was better for him, and we will see if the coach keeps it like this.”