The Hawthorne native was called up to the 30-man roster for the U.S. men’s national team training camp that got underway this week at StubHub Center, and he couldn’t be happier. His trademark optimism coincided perfectly with the national team’s efforts to focus on the future after it failed to qualify for this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Zardes had his own share of disappointments in 2017, a season filled with injury woes and difficult times for club and country, but he is anxious to push the reset button. The 26-year-old is the player in camp with the most appearances/caps (37) and also is one of nine players in camp over the age of 24.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to represent your country,” he told reporters. “I’ve been in the previous January camps and it’s a stepping stone into the season.
“So, for myself, I’m going to be pushing myself to the limit and in reality you get better by doing so playing with some of the best players in the country each and every single day. It’s going to be great for myself to keep testing my ability each and every day.”
Zardes also said he was grateful to start his preseason a few weeks earlier than other MLS players, which he felt can make him a better player in the long run. He clearly feels ready to get back into the swing of things.
“I really paid attention to my body during the off-season because… we didn’t make the playoffs, so we had a lot of off time,” he said. “I really utilized that time to make sure every single injury that had occurred in the past was taken care of.
“That was my main priority,” he went on. “The focus was just staying healthy in the off-season and working hard to prepare for this.”
The Galaxy were rumored to be shopping Zardes around MLS. The Columbus Crew were said to be a potential trading partner, but such reports left Gyasi relatively unfazed.
“I’m hearing what you guys are hearing,” he said. “My primary focus is now. I’m here with the national team, so I’m going to be here training, working hard. My primary focus is here.
“Everything else, I can forget about it.”
One person who appreciates Zardes’ drive and enthusiasm is interim national team head coach Dave Sarachan, who previously coached Zardes as a Galaxy assistant under former head coach Bruce Arena.
“Obviously, I do know Gyasi well,” Sarachan said. “And he did have a tough year with injury, but he’s still at a good age. He still is a player that I believe can play at this level.
“Confidence is always a big thing, but it wasn’t a handout. I think he belongs in this group.”
Zardes will be looking to make an impact in the national team’s Jan. 28 friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina at StubHub Center. He’ll then rejoin the Galaxy for preseason training. The Galaxy opens the regular season on Sunday, March 4 against the Portland Timbers at StubHub Center.