122114_isi_zardesgyasi_mlsdb12072014173 David Bernal/isiphotos.com
23 For January Camp

Gyasi Zardes' Time with U.S. National Team Has Arrived

The 23-year-old California native enjoyed a breakout MLS campaign in 2014, culminated by a crucial goal in MLS Cup. ASN believes Zardes warrants a long look from Jurgen Klinsmann next month.
BY Brooke Tunstall Posted
December 21, 2014
9:21 AM
Editors note: A group of ASN staffers have created a 23-man roster for the January U.S. national team camp. We will be unveiling our proposed squad in the coming weeks and crafting arguments for every name on our list.

NOTHING DEMONSTRATED JUST how ready Gyasi Zardes is to test himself at a higher level than the goal he scored earlier this month in MLS Cup.

Mired in a scoring slump that had seen him tally just once in 11 games, Zardes, 23, suddenly found himself with a go-ahead goal on his feet. Playing in the most important match of his career in front of his hometown fans, the striker proceeded to show amazing composure and calm that belied his youth.

In the 52nd minute a deflected cross from Stefan Ishizaki fell to Zardes on the left side of the box. He neatly took the ball out of mid-air with a deft touch, took two dribbles forward rather than taking a rushed shot that likely would have been blocked. He waited a beat before shooting to elude a sliding block attempt by Revolution defender Andrew Farrell and calmly fired a low-angled shot past charging goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.

“That he didn’t rush that shot,” Galaxy associate head coach Dave Sarachan said in the champagne-soaked locker room afterward. "Given the moment, was amazing."

That composure was not always there. Throughout his rookie season of 2013, Zardes was presented with myriad scoring chances but failed to convert most of them, finishing the campaign with just four goals. That carried over to the beginning of this season as he was scoreless through eight games.

But then things clicked for Zardes, who finally caught up with the size (six-foot-two), athleticism, and skill that had prompted the Galaxy to sign him to a homegrown contract after his junior year at Cal State Bakersfield. (Los Angeles actually tried to sign him a year earlier but Zardes opted for an extra season of college ball.)

In a 19-game stretch between late May and early September, Zardes scored 15 times and emerged as the top American forward in Major League Soccer.

And that reason alone makes him as strong a candidate for the January camp as any American player. There just aren’t a lot of American forwards, particularly young ones, who match Zardes’ innate finishing ability—and fewer still that do it with his size, athleticism, or youth.

Zardes still isn’t a finished product, as his scoring struggles at the beginning and end of the regular season demonstrate, but he’s certainly shown more than enough to justify a long look from Jurgen Klinsmann this January.

Our roster so far

Tesho Akindele
Lee Nguyen
Robbie Rogers
Matt Besler
Gyasi Zardes

Brooke Tunstall is an American Soccer Now contributing editor and ASN 100 panelist. You can follow him on Twitter.

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