USA’s Zardes hits the ground running

The USA's Gyasi Zardes (white jersey) in CONCACAF Gold Cup action against Haiti on July 10, 2015, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo: Mexsport)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Gyasi Zardes is hungry.

He’s hungry to learn and willing to listen. Whether it’s with the United States national team or with his club, the LA Galaxy, he soaks up advice.

And what better mentors can a 23-year-old attacking player have than Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, as well as Robbie Keane and the now-retired Landon Donovan.

“It’s a lot of confidence that comes from that. I learned so much from Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan,” Zardes said. “I always pick their brain with the LA Galaxy and they always give me helpful tips. That’s what helped me feel at home with these guys on the national team as well.”

Zardes is more than just feeling at home. He is thriving for both club and country. The latest example came Friday night at Gillette Stadium, when his insertion at halftime provided an instant spark in a hard-fought match against Haiti.

“What we were lacking was width in the first half,” United States coach Jürgen Klinsmann said. “We didn’t create anything over the wings and obviously Gyasi has this special talent to take people on, also with his speed and doing surprising elements.”

Zardes received a chipped ball on the left from Greg Garza, made a terrific touch off his chest and then showed poise beyond his years in the box, cutting the ball back for Clint Dempsey to finish for the game’s lone goal in the 47th minute.

The substitution for Jozy Altidore wasn’t even relayed over the public address system before Zardes made his impact.

It’s such a difference from Zardes’ first call-up in January for a training camp and his international debut off the bench against Chile.

“When I first came to the national team I was kind of timid,” expressed Zardes. “Obviously, it’s your first time with this group, but I feel like the more games and the more training sessions I have with the coaches and this team, I’m starting to be more comfortable and my own character is starting to prevail.”

The results on the field are the proof.

“He has an amazing positive attitude to the game, to his work,” Kilnsmann finished. “He’s not shy of doing extra whenever you ask him something. He’s a curious personality. He wants to constantly learn.

“It’s a real joy to work with him.”