Arsenal midfielder Ethiopian Gedion Zelalem wows in first-team debut ( VIDEO )

They’re calling him the best Arsenal academy product since Cesc Fàbregas. And speculation is he could one day be eligible to play for the US national team.

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

“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?

 


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