The Columbus Crew already has one player on its roster that has won a trophy in the calendar year of 2021. Striker Gyasi Zardes returned to Columbus as a Gold Cup champion after the United States Men’s National Team defeated Mexico in the Gold Cup Final on Sunday in Las Vegas. Zardes received a standing ovation from his club teammates prior Tuesday’s training session after his consistent performances for the USMNT in July.
Zardes is ready to play on for his club in the chase for a second consecutive MLS Cup title but this fall will be very congested for the 29-year-old striker. The United States is ready for FIFA World Cup Qualifiers after winning both the Gold Cup and Nations League this summer with three sets of international breaks set to take place in the coming months. The Crew striker shares the same feelings most American soccer fans have about the future of the men’s team: excited.
“You can tell the amount of talent that is coming from that younger generation of players,” Zardes said on Tuesday. “I’m so excited for what the future holds for our country. There are a lot of hungry players and if you give them a goal, they will do whatever it takes to accomplish it.”
After winning the two summer tournaments, the goal now for the USMNT is to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar after the failure of missing the 2018 edition in Russia. The expectation will be for the Americans to finish in the top three of the eight-team group in CONCACAF and go to the Middle East in November of 2022. A lot of the starting American players are in Europe but this Gold Cup proved some insight on many that play right here in America.
“There were a lot of hard-working guys and it was like a brotherhood,” said Zardes. “We quickly assembled under a short amount of time. For a lot of us, it was our first time playing with each other but every single game we were competing and building and leading up to the Gold Cup Final, you can see we were all in it together.”
Chemistry and depth are paramount for a World Cup Qualifying campaign, especially one that will be in a tight window. Zardes is among the central forward group for the national team and among the top three for selection for manager Gregg Berhalter. Josh Sargent of Werder Bremen played in the Nations League with Daryl Dike joining Zardes on the Gold Cup roster.
Competition could get heated for that starting striker job but as always, Zardes has the team in mind always and did this July.
“Daryl is like a brother,” said Zardes. “Anytime he started the game, I made sure I was supportive and positive. Anytime I started a game, he was the same way.”
A healthy locker room attitude is one step to building a good team and the on-field results can improve if players are ready to play together. The USMNT is set to play eight matches this fall in World Cup Qualifiers and Zardes could feature in some of those with attackers like Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna and others that fans may not even know about yet.
“You can see the player pool for the attacking players for the national team is constantly growing,” said Zardes. “There are multiple players that still haven’t even been called up that are making a name for themselves.”
The players on the USMNT are making a name for themselves already before the country’s biggest matches coming up. Zardes could be one player that can break through this fall past the fans of Columbus and MLS as one of the top strikers in CONCACAF, even if he doesn’t score goals. His work rate on and off the ball is one of his unique striker traits and in Sunday’s game, he covered 9.9 miles in 120 minutes.
With so many games coming up for Zardes for club and country, the Crew and the United States will need that fitness for the rest of 2021.
“I think my fitness level is great,” said Zardes. “That has always been a key trait of my game being able to work both sides of the ball.”