Last week, the Washington Post's intrepid Steve Goff once again scooped the soccer world. As reported on his Soccer Insider blog, Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem and his father were back in the DC region last week to finalize their US citizenship and get their passports, a necessary step if Gedion is to suit up for the United States in future competitions. If you haven't already, be sure to click over to Goff's post for all the details as to the hows and what nows for Zelalem and his club career at Arsenal, where Zelalem signed his first first-team contract earlier this year and has already appeared for the first team in the FA Cup.
I had a few questions of my own, however, so, since Zelalem came up thorugh the local youth soccer setup and is still quite young himself, I turned to one of the best sources for youth development news (both in the DMV and nationally), Travis Clark of Top Drawer Soccer.
For those unfamiliar with his game, tell us a bit about Gedion Zelalem.
Zelalem is a center midfielder in the mold of a deep-lying playmaker. He sits deeper and pings passes around the pitch. I haven't seen him get forward all that much, but he's a metronome who can make things tick. He's the player who will make the pass before the assist.
If Zelalem does commit to the US setup, where does he rank on Jurgen Klinsmann's growing list of dual national coups?
Keep in mind at 17, Zelalem is still a prospect who has yet to carve out a first team spot yet. That said, he's right up there with Julian Green in terms of his potential -- and you could easily say that he could be even better than Green because he's younger. Zelalem has featured primarily with Arsenal's U21s, at the same level we've seen Green at, and has put in some good performances.
Is there any chance at all that Zelalem makes even the 30-man provisional World Cup roster this year, or is the 2016 Olympics his first realistic chance to represent the USA in actual competition?
It would be a huge shock to see Zelalem in the 30-man roster, so the 2016 Olympics would likely make the most sense. But you never know with Jurgen.
D.C. United's Collin Martin was recently called into Tab Ramos' U-21 camp, which is widely understood to be preparing for Olympic qualifying. What would Zelalem's addition to the team mean for Martin?
It's difficult to make the early comparison. Martin is more of a traditional No. 10 in where he can excel on the field, and it's possible to imagine a team where both are playing together. That being said, it is another spot for an offensive-minded central midfielder, so it increases the competition.
With Zelalem getting from Berlin to London by way of Bethesda, there's more than a little pang of longing from D.C. United fans. Did the Black-and-Red ever have a realistic shot of adding the now Arsenal midfielder to their homegrown ranks, or was that always a pipe dream?
D.C. United was aware of Zelalem, but the midfielder was never really interested. He played with local club power OBGC Rangers, and once Arsenal began scouting him and that opportunity arose, United never really had a chance.
Let us know what you think about Zelalem's prospects with the USMNT down in the comments.
An earlier version of this piece misspelled Gedion Zelalem's name. We regret the error.