ST. PAUL, Minn. – There was fierce debate that erupted among US men’s national team fans when Gyasi Zardes was selected for the USA's final 23-man Gold Cup roster over his younger counterpart Josh Sargent.
As outsiders debated, Zardes kept his head down and worked.
“I don’t really feel pressure about anything,” he said shortly after the USMNT arrived in Minnesota to begin their final preparations for the Gold Cup. “I’m just trying to work extremely hard.”
That hard work earned him a starting spot at the front of the United States’ attack in their tournament-opening 4-0 win over Guyana. He started over Toronto FC striker and USMNT veteran Jozy Altidore and scored a goal. Berhalter explained the reason for the lineup decision:
“Jozy’s a player that’s getting up to full speed,” explained Berhalter after the game. Berhalter entered the match with a plan to substitute Christian Pulisic and Michael Bradley in the hopes of limiting needless minutes, leaving just one tactical sub available.
“When you have two planned subs, it becomes very tricky to start someone else that you’re thinking you’ll have to take off, so that was why Jozy didn’t start, and I think Gyasi did a good job,” Berhalter said.
That “good job” by Zardes involved netting his 8th goal in a US shirt, a unique finish off his face following a deflection off a Guyana defender.
“Right off the eye. Jeez,” laughed Zardes after the game. “I was anticipating heading Paul [Arriola]’s cross, but the defender got a deflection on it.”
Whether the act of scoring was intentional or not – Zardes said “of course” it was – he earned the reward for his effort.
“One thing that you’re always going to get with Gyasi is a work rate,” said Berhalter. “Gyasi’s a tremendous worker, a guy you know exactly what you’re going to get … really proud of him and how he performed.”