Gyasi Zardes (pictured) works out at the Rose Bowl on the eve of the USA's CONCACAF Cup match against Mexico. (Photo: Mexsport)
PASADENA, California – In slightly more than eight months, Gyasi Zardes has gone from making his international debut for the United States to a possible key role in the CONCACAF Cup against Mexico on Saturday.
The fact that the match will be played at the Rose Bowl -- a relatively short distance from where he plays for Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy and from where he grew up – makes the occasion even more meaningful.
“It’s a very special game for myself, right here in my hometown, where I was born and raised,” said the forward. “Just to be part of this 23-man group is a blessing. We’re working extremely hard and the guys in this camp are phenomenal players.
“These guys are great soccer players and just being teammates amongst some of the greats out here is phenomenal for my career.”
Zardes earned the first of his 15 caps in a 3-2 loss at Chile on January 28, replacing Clint Dempsey in the 68th minute. He netted for the first time during a 4-3 win at the Netherlands on June 4, before appearing in five of the USA’s six games in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
A win over Mexico will see the Americans earn a place in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. The opportunity to travel to Russia for an international tournament a year ahead of the next World Cup is an appealing prospect to Zardes.
“It is very important,” the 24-year-old said in reference to the game. “There’s a cup on the line and we want to win that cup. I just know we have an opponent we’re going to face this Saturday and we want to win.”
Is there any burden on the U.S. to beat its long-time rival?
“I don’t feel like we have pressure,” Zardes finished. “We’re working extremely hard.”