Gyasi Zardes is one of the most-maligned strikers in the
history of American soccer.
But he has been a big part of the Columbus Crew's success in 2020, leading MLS's top team with nine goals and three assists in 12 games.
"He’s really in great form right now," Crew head coach Caleb Porter said after Zardes had a goal and an assist in the 2-0 win over Nashville SC on Saturday. "I tell him every day because in training he’s playing as well as I’ve ever seen him play and he has a lot of confidence."
Often criticized for his poor first touch, Zardes scored a career-high five goals for the USA in 2019 as Jozy Altidore and Josh Sargent were often unavailable.
His reputation has suffered for the fluky goals he has scored with the national team.
He scored with shot from about 25 yards deflected off a defender to give the USA a 1-0 win over Ecuador in March 2019, the lone win over a non-Concacaf team in the first 19 games under Gregg Berhalter.
In the opening game of the 2019 Gold Cup, he grimaced in pain after a cross from Paul Arriola was deflected by a Guyana defender off his face and into the goal.
But there was nothing fluky about the goal he scored to clinch the win over Nashville SC. He took a pass from Artur and dragged the ball with a flick of his heel into the far corner of the goal.
"I think he’s doing different things than he’s ever done," Porter added, "and he’s showing to be more complete in his hold-up play, in his movement in different ways. He’s always going to be good in the box -- that’s his greatest strength."
Porter praised Zardes for his work to improve his game, which has produced 41 goals in 73 games since he joined the Crew from the LA Galaxy for the 2018 season.
“Any top striker I’ve been around," Porter said on Monday, "there’s no coincidence why they’re good at scoring goals. They spend a lot of time working on it, that’s no different with Gyasi."