By FRANCO PANIZO
NEW YORK — The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team is willing to wait for Gedion Zelalem, even if it takes until the 11th hour.
The U.S. roster for the upcoming Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand was announced on Thursday morning, but the one twist to it was that only 20 of the 21 slots were filled. Immediately, fans and observers speculated that the vacant spot was being held for Arsenal prodigy Gedion Zelalem, whose eligibility for the U.S. is still in question.
U.S. head coach Tab Ramos confirmed that was indeed the case on Thursday, but it is unknown if Zelalem will be approved before the World Cup roster submission deadline of May 15. U.S. Soccer is still in the process of providing FIFA the necessary documentation to make the German-born player of Ethiopian descent eligible to play for the United States, but there is no timetable on just when FIFA will make a ruling on Zelalem’s U.S. eligibility.
For now, Ramos and the U-20s are stuck in a waiting game for a player Ramos believes can be a difference maker.
“He’s a good player,” said Ramos during a roundtable interview. “I know he’s a creative player and those are players that I like because you can’t really coach those. You have to just generally put them in position and hopefully put them into position to succeed.
“He’s one of those players, so I think we can fit him into a position in our system where he can be creative and do good things for us.”
Ramos admitted that he is still largely unfamiliar with the 18-year-old midfielder, who spent some of his childhood living in Washington, D.C. and made his Arsenal first-team debut in 2014. Ramos admitted he has mostly just heard the stories through the grapevine and watched Zelalem’s YouTube highlights, but efforts have been made in recent days to better understand what Zelalem can bring to the table as a player and person.
“The conversations have gotten seriously lately, so we’ve sent people there,” said Ramos. “Our assistant coach was there last week watching him play against West Brom, so we talked to him. If things do work out, he would be excited to come, but then the rest is all the paperwork.
“We’ve done all of the homework on our side, and if that does happen, then that’s a great thing for us. But if it doesn’t we’re prepared with another selection.”
Ramos revealed that selection would be midfielder Zach Pfeffer, who has one goal in four starts and seven league appearances for the Philadelphia Union this season.
“If it doesn’t happen, we have Zach Pfeffer, who is ready to go,” said Ramos. “I’ve already spoken with him and told him the situation, and this is kind of where we are. We are prepared to make that call as well.”
Yeah Tab was fun to watch play.
For Ramos to say:
“He’s a good player,” said Ramos. “I know he’s a creative player and those are players that I like because you can’t really coach those. You have to just generally put them in position and hopefully put them into position to succeed.
Then maybe he shouldn’t be a coach. Zelalem is still a kid and has a lot to learn. This quote coming from one of the most if not the most creative player the USMNT has ever had just beggars belief.
Why are you surprised?
Ramos ought to know a creative player when he sees one.and he probably knows a thing or two about how to handle them.
As for GZ being a kid, all the Under 20’s are.
Pretty sure what he was getting at, how I interpreted this statement is that creativity is a more innate/you either have it or you don’t sort of thing. You can give a creative player freedom/ encourage it, help it come out, but largely, it can not be coached.
Just looking at that picture of Zelalem, he’s so skinny, a strong urge comes over me that makes me want to come at him with a crunching slide-tackle!!
classy, like a true Bruin thug…
“Ramos admitted he has mostly just heard the stories through the grapevine and watched Zelalem’s YouTube highlights,”
So anyone of us here could become the u-20 coach!? lol
I thought this was pretty weird as well. Makes me think maybe Ramos isn’t as convinced about Zelalem as he’s letting on and he might be getting pressure from the USSF to wait until May 15.
To pin one’s World Cup glory hopes on an 18 who is not yet starting is a bit like planning a wedding with the cute girl who’s only just made eye contact with you at the bar…
This is an awesome metaphor.
But she was REALLY cute…
the next day i texted her 4 times but she never responded, should i text her again now?
Many I hope we land this player. I am 47 and I want to win a WC before I have to watch it in a nursing home.
If you’re expecting this kid to lead us to a World Cup, I have a feeling you’re going to be disappointed.
Please Soccer Jesus let this happen.
Pretty sure Blatter is waiting for our vote before he allows the change to go through,
That would be my guess. It definitely smells like a politicized power-play move. I do not think Blatter was happy we were one of the ones who endorsed Prince Ali as Blatter’s replacement.
I strongly suspect we will not be seeing Zelalem approved anytime soon…certainly not by May 15.
We don’t need him that bad. To hell with Blatter.