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With his winning goal on Saturday, Gyasi Zardes landed in the top 10 MLS goalscorers of all time (Photo by Joe Nogalski)

Centre forward. Number nine. Striker. Whatever your preferred term, there is no position in team sports that is more closely linked to a single statistic.

Goals. You either score them or you don't.

It's beautifully binary. Simple. Fair.

For other positions on the football field, the demands are more subjective and abstract. Creativity. Physicality. Decision making. These things are often in the eye of the beholder.

Even goalkeepers have to do more than just stop shots; they also have to organize their defenders and distribute passes from the back.

But strikers? Score goals. Everything else is secondary.

Gyasi Zardes knows this as well as anyone. The 32-year-old Austin FC No. 9 has experienced both sides of the equation. He has been a top-six scorer three times in his 12-year MLS career, and went an entire year without scoring for LA Galaxy from 2016 to 2017.

It took him nine days to repeat that disastrous feat with the Verde and Black, having not scored a goal since July 15, 2023.

But on Saturday evening, Zardes was used less and less often from the start due to the yellow card suspension of his first striker Diego Rubio and was able to make twelve months of frustration forgotten in 25 minutes of play.

The former US international scored two classic goals – an equaliser and a winner – to help Austin FC to a crucial 2-1 comeback victory over New York City FC at Q2 Stadium.

“It's an incredible feeling,” said Zardes after the victory. “Personally, I've been trying to score a goal since the first game of the season, but I haven't managed it. But I've seen a lot of strikers in my position in the past who only scored later in the season. You have to keep your head down. You have to keep working. And the goals did come tonight.”

In terms of character, it is impossible not to like Zardes. If there is a more approachable, polite and positive man in the Verde dressing room, this columnist has never met him.

“[Gyasi] is an incredible human being. He shows great fighting spirit and perseverance,” said ATX head coach Josh Wolff, who coached Zardes at various stations long before the two reunited in Austin.

And yet the Southern California native has been a fierce critic throughout his career, and that reality has certainly followed him to Austin.

Much of that comes from what many American soccer fans would call a disappointing national team career, in which Zardes spent most of 2015-2022 as a starting striker for the United States (he still managed to score 14 goals in 67 games, which puts him 15th on U.S. soccer's all-time scoring list).

There are certainly elements of Zardes' game that can be frustrating. He was never the fastest striker, nor the most technically gifted. But he did what mattered most: scoring goals.

105 of them in his MLS career, to be exact. With his winning goal on Saturday, Zardes landed in the top 10 MLS goalscorers of all time, a milestone that did not go unnoticed by the veteran.

“It's a great feeling,” Zardes said. “All the hard work over the years, all the teammates who helped me.”

Of course, it will take a lot more than one game to get Zardes back in the good graces of ATX fans, especially considering he earns the highest salary of any player on the roster, with the exception of the club's three designated players.

But Zardes doesn't plan on simply cashing his paycheck as he heads into retirement. He has much more in mind.

“I just have to keep working hard so I can keep going,” Zardes said. “I'm trying to build a legacy and I just want to keep winning and keep going.”

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