As a forward on the Cal State Bakersfield men's soccer team the past three years, Gyasi Zardes wowed fans, teammates and opponents alike with his spectacular playmaking ability.
The 6-foot-2-inch 175-pounder from Hawthorne racked up goals at a record pace, and carried the Roadrunners to new heights, including a berth in the NCAA tournament during his junior year.
Now the 21-year old soccer standout is about to take his immense talents to a much bigger stage as a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Despite having another year of college soccer eligibility remaining, Zardes recently signed as a "Homegrown Player" with the two-time defending Major League Soccer champions.
"It's definitely a blessing to get picked up by a team such as the L.A. Galaxy, which has a lot of history, especially winning various championships and titles," Zardes said. "It's a great accomplishment, and I know I have more work to put in to keep to achieving more accomplishments."
Zardes has already began training with the Galaxy, a club that he previously represented at the Under-18 and Under-20 levels. He led the Galaxy U-20's to the United Soccer Leagues Super-20 final in 2010.
"So far it's going great," Zardes said. "I'm working hard each and every day. I'm definitely taking in as much advice from the coaches and others players, and trying to increase my level and adapt to the professional game."
Zardes, who is still taking online classes at CSUB in an effort to graduate with a degree in criminal justice later this year, decided to turn professional after scoring 33 goals in 37 games during the past two years for the Roadrunners.
During that same time span, he was twice named the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year.
"Everybody in college really wants to win a NCAA title, but I definitely feel I had done all I can do at that level," Zardes said. "So the next step was to go pro."
Now, Zardes couldn't be happier that he will be playing for the Galaxy, a team he grew up watching. But Zardes acknowledges that his journey back to L.A. was helped by the detour through Bakersfield.
"I'd definitely have to say (playing at CSUB) helped me a lot," Zardes said. "I was always a skillful player, but it was kind of like I had the skills, but didn't know the correct things to do with that as a forward. (CSUB coaches) Simon Tobin and Keith Costigan really opened my eyes, and really showed me various things to add to my game as a forward."
Zardes said he will always remember fondly his time in Bakersfield, on and off the soccer field.
"The whole community was very welcoming," Zardes said. "... Everybody was very friendly and I really appreciate that."
Zardes has the potential to become a MLS star once he gets accustomed the pro game. He certainly has the talent to make it big, as he recently told a reporter at the MLS draft.
"My skill is just going to blow your mind," Zardes said.