Gidieon Zalalem is a name you should follow for the next couple of years. The 17-year-old Arsenal midfielder/winger is on the thoughts and minds of many USMNT staff members as Arsenal continues its USA preseason tour. The teenager is of Ethiopian descent but was born in Germany. However, between the ages of 9 and 15, he lived in the Washington DC area and set the youth club soccer scene on fire. This ultimately led to his signing by one of the top EPL clubs – Arsenal about a year ago. Arsenal Club manager, Arsene Wenger, is already high on the young talent and gave him 45 minutes in their recent friendly against the New York Red Bulls so Zalalem could test his trade against some of the top MLS players like Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill. Henry, the all time leading goal scorer for Arsenal, had good things to say about the young lad and sees a promising future for him. While he did get muscled off the ball at times, Zalalem has incredible ball skill abilities and a knack for knowing where to go, or in other words, an understanding for the game.
So, why does any of this matter? Do you remember the name Julian Green? I hope so. He’s the 19-year-old midfielder/forward who scored an important goal for the USA against Belgium after being inserted into the lineup in the latter part of that match. Green was one of the young players that Klinsmann brought along when everyone else questioned such a decision. Why else are names like Julian Green and Gidieon Zalalem key to remember? They are the future of the USMNT, play world-class football for Champions League Clubs like German club Bayern Munich and EPL team Arsenal, and are monitored closely by Klinsmann.
Klinsmann is hoping that Zalalem will follow in Green’s footsteps and pick the USA national team over World Cup Champion Germany (and his home country of Ethiopia to be fair). Since Zalalem lived in the US with his father during his youth career, he’s eligible to apply for US citizenship (through his father) and could ultimately pick to play for the red, white, and blue. Klinsmann, who has already had brief discussions with the young player, would be thrilled with such a decision. It’s always crucial to look for young stars when trying to build for Russia in 2018. It’ll be interesting to see how much Arsenal grooms the young lad in the next few seasons as he’s already broken into the senior team once but is expected to play most of this upcoming season with the reserves and youth teams.
The 17 year old prefers to play more of an up top central midfielder, however, he can also play a pressing winger. He’s speedy but still lacks the physique and physicality of a top young player but you have to remember that he’s only 17. Wenger and his youth coaches have seen his desire to learn, his respect for the game and his teammates, and his enthusiasm for playing. As long as these three things persist, the physical prowess can continue to be developed and will come to help his game. USA fans should be excited to see young prospects like Gidieon considering the notion of playing for the USMNT and taking active steps to get there (like GZ’s dad applying for US citizenship while he’s only a green card holder). Remember his name and keep an eye out for him, as he’ll look to work his way into the Gunners attack and could be donning a USA jersey (which his dad already has) before we know it.