Meet Gedion Zelalem

The biggest American soccer news during the holiday season was 17-year-old German-born Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem, who played six years of youth soccer in the Washington, D.C., area, becoming a U.S. citizen. We tracked down some on- and off-the-field video of the young man who’s being hailed as a boost to the U.S. national team program.

On Tuesday, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati tweeted that Zelalem, who is also eligible to play for Germany and Ethiopia, had asked the federation to begin the paperwork to submit to FIFA so he can play for the USA.

Born in Berlin, Zelalem played in Hertha Berlin’s youth program before moving to Maryland at age 9 with his father and sister. He starred on Coach Matt Pilkington’s Olney Rangers and at age 16 joined Arsenal.

In this "Introducing Gedion Zelalem" video produced by Arsenal, he reveals, among other things, his guilty pleasure, the song that gets him "pumped," the first thing he does when he gets home from practice, his favorite TV show, his soccer role model …

Zelalem has played mainly for Arsenal’s youth academy teams and its U-21 team. In September, he scored this goal for Arsenal's U-19 team in a UEFA Youth League match against Galatasaray:

He made his first team debut at age 16 in a FA Cup game against Coventry on Jan. 24, coming on in the 71st minute of the 4-1 win. The debut made club history as he was the first player to appear for the Gunners who was born after Coach Arsene Wenger took charge in September 1996.

He has yet to play in an English Premier League game, but made his Champions League debut Sept. 12 when he came on at halftime of a 4-1 win over Galatasaray on Sept. 12.

Here’s a 6-minute compilation Zelalem in action for Arsenal’s youth teams.

7 comments about "Meet Gedion Zelalem ".
  1. F. Kirk Malloy, December 31, 2014 at 7:47 a.m.

    Great vision. Quick feet. Uses both and all surfaces. Quicker mind. Enough speed. Slight but young. He could be a real deal #10 for USMNT.
    On a scale of 1 -10, with 1 = Ho hum and 10 = the next (and our first) Cesc, where would you put him?

  2. Kim Littleton, December 31, 2014 at 10:12 a.m.

    He looks ok. I don't understand US Soccer and them looking everywhere but here! Come on already. In the summer it was all about Julian this kid. Would love to know who their agents are because they are certainly excellent had hyping everyone up! Look at home first...that's what all the other countries do. Which German will it be next who is the next great thing for the US? Very frustrating for those players who are just as good, but don't get all the hype....

  3. Masoud Gardizi, December 31, 2014 at 12:05 p.m.

    The saddest thing about this story is that it makes it sound like this guy was trained and brought up to this level in Germany or Arsenal. Folks, his main training took place here from 11-16 , his golden years. They should find his coach and give him an award or do some recognition of his work, since he is the real HERO.
    The article is so quick to give credit to placers and people who don't deserve it

  4. Carlos Ramirez, December 31, 2014 at 12:30 p.m.

    The kid's got nice vision and moves into space nicely, but you can find that from a half of dozen U.S. born and trained elite players in just about any state. All it takes is a deep enough pocket to get that kind of exposure. MLS gurus criticize JK about U.S players finding training overseas, but look who MLS owners are going after and selecting as designated players. It's all about pay for play. Tell me I'm wrong!

  5. beautiful game, December 31, 2014 at 2:03 p.m.

    Does he have the skills and passion to match Giuseppe Rossi?

  6. BJ Genovese, January 1, 2015 at 1:17 p.m.

    The reality is that when you have "it" as a soccer player. You just have "it". The most important things is that you are exposed to an environment that is going to feed the players physically and mentally. He does look good. We spend to much time telling players of this quality what they are doing wrong and trying to imprint our soccer IQ on them. Due to the resume building going in the US its getting in the way of letting our talents develop. Not enough focus on building exceptional players up mentally in the US. This kid has played with Arsenal... he subbed out Alex Chamberlain... He is beggining to believe he is special... thats what players need. To know they are invincible, than the love for the ball as a child takes over.

  7. beautiful game, January 2, 2015 at 9:44 a.m.

    BJG, you're spot on.

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