The newly American passported Gedion Zelalem started his first game early this morning (America time) at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. The former Washington, DC-area high school prodigy, now plying his trade at Arsenal, has been widely reported as a coup for Jurgen Klinsmann, as Zelalem could have chosen to play for Germany (and still could). Rather than immediately embedding him into the senior team, Klinsmann thought it would be good for Zelalem’s acclimation process to head to New Zealand with the U-20s.
So how did he fare? Well, he was excellent. Mesmerizing at times, even.
The reasonable thing to say, at this point, is that we need to have patience. Zelalem is still only 18 years old. But watch him play. Watch his touches. Watch the weight of his balls, the confidence-bordering-on-overconfidence while in possession, the vision, and you’ll quickly realize that exercising patience is easier said than done. Zelalem is exactly the type of creative midfielder the U.S. has been waiting to unearth.
Watch his touches (no. 19) against New Zealand, and then wipe your drool with your sleeve.
WARNING: Music has bad words. If you don’t like bad words, use the mute button or sign loudly.
The U.S. might be going places if Zelalem can stay on track. And it’s also a great sign that U.S. YouTube highlights are backed by Notorious B.I.G. tracks instead of EDM. Progress is everywhere.
The U.S. plays Ukraine at 3 a.m. EST on Friday, June 5.