The U.S. men’s national soccer team is looking to close out 2018 on a strong note. The squad failed to qualify for this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, but is embarking on a schedule of friendlies against some of the best nations in the world, teams who did compete in the World Cup.
That begins at 7:30 p.m. ET Friday against Brazil at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The five-time World Cup champions are ranked No. 3 in the world, and will bring a star-studded roster including Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Casemiro.
The U.S. roster, meanwhile, features a lot of youth, averaging just 23 years old. World Cup veterans such as Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley were left off.
Making a return to the national team, however, will be 27-year-old forward Gyasi Zardes, who has 38 caps and six goals with the USMNT. He’s in his first season with the Columbus Crew, for which he’s netted 15 goals this year. That’s the most among all U.S.-eligible MLS players, and just one shy of his career high (16 with the L.A. Galaxy in 2014).
Zardes’ call-up comes after a long stint of being left off the squad — 31 of his appearances came between 2015-16, with 19 in 2015. But his resurgence with Columbus has led to a second chance with the U.S.
“It feels great being back here with the national team,” Zardes told the MLS. “It’s a huge honor to represent your country, but also there’s a bunch of great players here and it’s an amazing opportunity for myself just to prove myself still and also utilize this week to get better.”
Zardes is also a Christ-follower. He includes “#allglorytoGod” on nearly all of his social media posts, where he has highlighted Romans 5:8:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV pic.twitter.com/58ITRqSlim
— Gyasi Zardes (@gyasinho) March 30, 2018
— Gyasi Zardes (@gyasinho) June 24, 2018
“I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, and I try to keep Him at the center of my life,” Gyasi once told ESPN. “Be humble and just serve a purpose with my life.”
“I know all things are possible through Christ, you just have to work hard,” he told Living Out Loud Los Angeles.
Born and raised in L.A., Zardes broke into the MLS as a homegrown player for the L.A. Galaxy, making his debut in April 2013. His breakout year in 2014 helped the Galaxy win the MLS Cup. But after a few down years in which he often played other positions, Zardes was traded to Columbus in January 2018. He returned to his favored forward position, and has enjoyed a resurgence since.
Zardes and the U.S. national team will follow the Brazil match with friendlies against Mexico (Sept. 11), Colombia (Oct. 11) and Peru (Oct. 16) in the U.S., before traveling to face England (Nov. 15) and Italy (Nov. 20).
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