FOXBORO, Mass. — It took Gyasi Zardes just two minutes to make a positive impact in the United States men’s national soccer team’s 1-0 win over Haiti in Friday’s Gold Cup game at Gillette Stadium.
Zardes came on for veteran forward Jozy Altidore at halftime and set up Clint Dempsey’s goal with a beautiful centering pass in the 47th minute.
Zardes only is 22 years old and even though he’s capable of starting games in an attacking role, he’s also able to act a super sub and provide much-needed pace, creativity and width to the U.S. attack later in games when the team needs a spark.
That was the case Friday night.
The U.S. tallied just three shot attempts — none on target — in a lackluster first half during which Haiti was the better team throughout. Once Zardes entered the game, the Americans started to create better scoring chances and possess the ball more frequently.
“On one hand, Gyasi is still working in this process,” U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We talked about it the last couple of days and the work is still ongoing. I’m not worried about it. He’s going to come into this tournament, he will get stronger and stronger every day in training and every minute on the field. We’re going to keep building him.
“What we were lacking was width in the first half. We didn’t create anything coming over the wings. Gyasi has this special talent to take people on and also with his speed and bringing a surprising element. … Again, he showed the qualities he has, it’s nice.”
Depth is one of the strengths of this U.S. squad. Klinsmann has a lot of attacking options at forward, and when one combination isn’t working or if Altidore’s fitness doesn’t improve much through the end of the tournament, the manager is able to change the pace of the game by bringing on a player such as Zardes from the bench.
Not only is Zardes an incredibly skilled player, he shows an impressive worth ethic and the willingness to improve his game in every way imaginable. It’s a mindset not all young players possess, specifically the ultra-talented ones.
“He has a lot of talent, a lot of potential,” Klinsmann said of Zardes. “You just want to tell him every day ‘one step at a time.’ He has an amazing positive attitude to the game, to his work. He’s not shy of doing extra work. Whenever you ask him something, he’s a curious personality, he wants to constantly learn. So, it’s a real joy to work with him.”
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images
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