Editorial: US Soccer, Let’s Be A Little Patient With Gedion Zelalem


After the long wait it almost seems a little anti-climatic. There was no big press conference on Wednesday afternoon, no big press conference from US Soccer, no hour long presentations on ESPN or Fox Sports. Aside from a few tweets by U.S. Soccer officials and a couple of articles by seasoned journalists the buzz around Gedion Zelalem finally getting cleared to play for US Soccer has been minimal.


Now this is certainly not a knock against the kid or against US Soccer. He is a prospect and is certainly someone worth getting excited. At 18 years old he is already knocking on the door of Arsenal’s 18 man roster and has shown in fleeting appearances to be someone that could potentially play with any team in the world.It is certainly a coup that he has chosen to play for the United States and a tremendous credit to youth soccer in this country that a player of his caliber can come from our leagues.

But there are a few things to keep in mind. First, he is not the savior of US Soccer. Zelalem is not going to magically whisk the United States into the World Cup final in three years and immediately give US Soccer the respect abroad that it so desperately craves. Although most supporters seems to have come to accept our stature in the world and that in due time things may change, MLS and US Soccer still at times seem to think one big player can change everything. No such player exists and it is certainly not an 18 year old kid trying to figure out who he is.

Second, he still has a ton of things to work on. At 5’11” 154lbs he needs to get stronger to be able to play against some of the move physical defenders in international football. Although he is now playing against players in the youth divisions of English football that he can beat with his raw skills, when he does make that jump to the Premier League or to another European club on loan he is going to face players who aren’t fazed with his skills. There have been plenty of players who have as much skill as Gedion does but have never made the next step because they cannot adjust to the speed and tactical abilities of defenders at a higher level.

Now these things might come across as being a tad negative and in truth be told they are. But he is still a kid learning how to play this game. US Soccer seems to understand that he needs to be kept away from the spotlight. Although he still might feature for the team in the Gold Cup, he will start his US Soccer career in a month with the under-20 Men’s World Cup. The name may imply World Cup and it is certainly an important tournament in the grand scheme of developing a national football program, it is out of the watchful eye of major media in this country and the fair-weather supporter.

It seems that this move to have Gedion play in the U-20 World Cup and avoid the senior national team (for now) is almost a counter-balance to the Julian Green situation. Green’s goal against Belgium in the Round of 16 in Brazil last year was certainly memorable but so has his outbursts in dissatisfaction with being on loan at Hamburg and being demoted to their youth team. Like Gedion, Green came to US Soccer under the pretense that he was a ‘can’t miss’ prospect. But it seems that success has soured his development.

This is not necessarily a case of earning one’s stripes to play on the senior team. Rather it is the perfect for Zelalem to learn more about the style that US Soccer Technical Director Jurgen Klinsmann is trying to implement and giving him the chance to build himself up so that he can inevitably move on to the senior team. There is no rush with him; again, he is 18 years old.

Time will tell if Zelalem will become an asset for the United States Men’s National Team. In the meantime, let’s be patient and give the kid a chance to play.

Next: Kaka Named To Brazil's Provisional Squad.