If first impressions really matter, Columbus Crew SC and Gyasi Zardes might be at the beginning of what could be a long-lasting and prolific relationship. Training with the Black & Gold in the preseason camp in Arizona for only a few days, the forward is already positively impressed by his initial moments with the club.
Expected to replace Ola Kamara and be the team’s most effective scoring option in 2018, Zardes definitely started on the right foot as he scored in the 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids in a scrimmage last Wednesday, only two minutes after the starting whistle, in the first time he played with his new teammates.
“I love the coaching style here,” he said in a conference call on Friday when asked about the scrimmage. “They make things extremely clear when we go to training and when we played against Colorado. They made the job easier for me because they told me what to do and as long as I executed that, I had an opportunity to put us in a scoring position. So far I’m really enjoying it and I feel like I’m being pushed to my limit, so I’m really looking forward to this year.”
The first goal for Crew SC gave Zardes some confidence and hopefully will shorten the reluctance of part of the fan base, which are not entirely convinced that a player who scored 15 goals in the three last years combined will be able to properly replace Kamara, who netted 19 in the 2017 season alone.
Although Zardes acknowledges that he’s still getting his feet wet when it comes to Crew SC’s style, he is confident he can be the right guy to help the team going forward. If he can regain his form of 2014, when he scored 17 goals, including one that helped the LA Galaxy to win the MLS Cup, those questions will likely be gone soon.
“Ever since I’ve been in camp I’ve been in the No. 9 position,” he said about his projected role with Crew SC. “I’ve been constantly communicating with Gregg (Berhalter) and what he sees for a striker as part of his team. I’m constantly motivated to work hard every day and produce to this team. It does give me confidence that the coaching staff believes and had faith in me. I think that any striker who has clear communication grants them a good opportunity of succeeding.”
Crew SC has impressed Zardes off the field as well. Going through a busy offseason, which saw him get traded when he was in the U.S. Men’s National Team January Camp, the 26-year-old forward has had help from the club to manage all the details of his move to Columbus while he was on the road.
According to Zardes, Zach Crusse, Crew SC’s Director of Team Operations, has done a great job on taking care of his move with his wife Madison. If everything remains on track, Zardes will have all his stuff waiting for him in Columbus when he gets to town after the preseason camp.
“I put all my faith in Zach,” he commented. “He’s taking care of a bunch of things. He’s communicating with my wife and the two have been back and forth on things that need to get done and it has been awesome. The past month has been crazy with things off the field, but ever since I’ve joined the team here in Arizona things have been great. The Columbus Crew administration is helping my family relocate to Columbus and all the stress is gone.”
If he wasn’t able to take care of his move during his time with the U.S. National Team, Zardes certainly took the opportunity of being close to Crew SC’s goalkeeper Zack Steffen and captain Wil Trapp to familiarize himself his new club in the best way he could.
According to Trapp, some talks took place about his move to Columbus and if the forward is excited to be with the club, the feeling is in other direction is exactly the same.
“I was getting information that it (the trade) was potentially going to happen, so we sat down and just chatted for a little bit about any questions he would have about our style of play, about how me, being in the team for a long time, saw how he would fit in our group,” the midfielder said. “I thing personality-wise he’s a wonderful fit, but even more so on the field. Just being someone who we know we can provide service to and he’s going to score a lot of goals. He’s a guy that’s hungry for soccer nourishment in a lot of ways.”
Crew SC will hope the next chapters of this intriguing union are as promising as the initial ones.