In recent years, the MLS All-Star Game has been a chance for foreign opponents to showcase their American players: Roma with Michael Bradley
in 2013, Bayern Munich with Julian Green
(whose image was plastered on trolleys all over Portland) in 2014 and Tottenham with DeAndre Yedlin
in 2015. Bradley was gone by winter, the other two have yet to break into the first team.
This year it's Arsenal's turn. Gedion Zelalem
is on the Gunners' traveling squad for their two games in California: MLS All-Stars on Saturday and Chivas Guadalajara on Sunday at
StubHub Center in Carson.
Green, again on tour with Bayern
, has yet to play
a Bundesliga game with Bayern and will soon know his fate: stick with the first team or move on. Yedlin spent last season on loan at Sunderland and did well, starting for manager Sam Allardyce
who has since left to coach England. Yedlin is with Tottenham in preseason but his future at Spurs is uncertain.
Zelalem is younger -- only 19 -- and coming off a season on loan at
Rangers, which won promotion back to the Scottish Premiership.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
feels "he did quite well" and has brought in back into the first team for preseason.
It's unlikely Zelalem will stick with the first team but Wenger takes the long view with him.
"I think he’s a player who has quality, top quality," Wenger said on the eve of the
AT&T All-Star Game in San Jose.
Born in German to Ethiopian parents but raised in Maryland, Zelalem joined Arsenal at the age of 16 and played on its Asian tour. Except for one
appearance in the FA Cup and another in the Champions league, Zelalem didn't play for Arsenal in his first two seasons with the Gunners.
"He might be a bit longer to mature because he is
a little bit behind on the body structure," Wenger said. "But I’m sure he will be a great player who matures maybe a bit slowly physically. But overall, I’m convinced that he’ll have
a great career. Will he play [in the All-Star Game]? Certainly [he'll be] part of the game."
Wenger has had other Americans before Zelalem, though Danny Karbassiyoon
never made an EPL appearance with the Gunners. Neither generated the excitement like Zelalem has -- in part because of his flashy moves while on tour in the summer of 2013
Wenger remains high on Americans.
"Americans have a big quality that
they are dedicated," he said. "When they do something, they do it 100 percent. I would have loved to have players coming from here because they have individual responsibility and they are committed."
MLS All-Star match is on Thursday.