Arsenal phenom midfielder Gedion Zelalem wows in first-team debut, but will he play for USMNT?
On Friday, 16-year-old midfielder Gedion Zelalem showed the soccer world a glimpse of the world-class vision and passing ability when he made his Arsenal senior debut off the bench in a 4-0 FA Cup whitewashing of Coventry City. He came in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the final 20 minutes and had a hand in the final goal by Santi Cazorla in the 89th minute (watch the video above).
"It was a good opportunity to give him a chance to play and he showed when he came on that he is not scared, not fazed by the occasion," Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger told media after the match. "He wants the ball and you feel there is some vision and personality behind his pass."
Zelalem was born in Germany and his family is of Ethiopian heritage, but he spent his formative years (ages 9 through 16) in the USA -- he played for Olney Rangers and attended Walter Johnson High School near Washington, D.C. -- where he was identified by Arsenal.
When it comes to international soccer, he has played for Germany's Under-16 team and also trained with the US Under-15s. USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann has reportedly already reached out.
The Washington Post dug into Zelalem's US prospects last year, but The Guardian's in-depth report on Friday might give USMNT fans the most hope: "He not only sounds American, he considers himself to be American ... Zelalem has a claim for a US passport."
Here's something that Klinsmann and the USA have going for them: Arsenal are owned by an American, Colorado Rapids owner Stan Kroenke, and Ivan Gazidis helped build MLS, rising to deputy commissioner.
What did you think of Gedion Zelalem's 20 minutes vs. Coventry? Do you think he will decide to play for the USMNT in the future? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Surreal to see Gideon Zelalem playing for #Arsenal. In late 2011, I was watching him play for Walter Johnson High School, my alma mater.
— Sebastian Salazar (@SebiSalazarCSN) January 24, 2014
— broshar (@broshar) January 24, 2014
Found this from Jeff. Cup - Gedion Zelalem guest playing for Richmond Strikers in March 2011: pic.twitter.com/mjK9JPxMiY
— Travis Clark (@travismclark) January 24, 2014
Gedion Zelalem is the first player to feature for Arsenal who was born after Arsene Wenger took charge of the Club pic.twitter.com/LsoqNWfhR3
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 24, 2014