After notching brace in big USMNT win, Zardes is most proud of his defense

CLEVELAND – While the conversation around the US national team’s striker position swirls around him, Gyasi Zardes continues to go about his business.

With a brace against Trinidad and Tobago in Saturday night’s 6-0 thrashing, Zardes now has three goals in two 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup matches, putting him in the Golden Boot conversation and answering some questions about whether he has the quality for international play.

“We’re proud of him and we’re proud of his effort,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said of Zardes after the win. “We know he has good ability; he’s a tremendous worker. It’s nice to have him here.”

Always focused on his team, Zardes said he’s not thinking about any kind of striker battle with Jozy Altidore, who he called a “brother.”

Instead, he said he spent the time between Gold Cup matches working on his defensive play. Zardes said his defensive work allowed the USMNT “an opportunity to go straight at Trinidad’s goal.”

And unlike his first goal on the night, a tap-in he said was just about “being ready for the ball to come at you,” he’s proud of that defensive effort.

“We were working on it yesterday; I was watching a bunch of film on things I can correct that I was doing wrong in training, defensively,” he said. “Sure enough, this game I think I got it right.”

For Berhalter, that work rate and commitment to improvement has been an important part of Zardes’ appeal since the two teamed up for Columbus Crew SC last season.

Now, Berhalter said that consistency is key to Zardes’ role with the USMNT.

“Gyasi is a guy that you know exactly what you’re going to get from him; I’ve said that all along,” Berhalter said. “In your squad of 23 players you need a majority of guys that can give you what you’re asking for. Gyasi is a guy like that.”

With three goals under his belt, Zardes said he’s starting to see similarities between how the USMNT are playing and his best days in Columbus under Berhalter.

“Some of the foundations are very similar to how we played at the Columbus Crew last year, but there are different elements now,” he said. “It’s like it’s on steroids now. It’s pretty cool to learn these new methods, these new movements. … I really enjoy playing here.”