Arsenal v Galatasaray - Emirates Cup

Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem about to jump off the U.S. Soccer radar

9 Comments

On one level, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, because a lot of devoted U.S. Men’s National Team fans would love to see a player with Gedion Zelalem’s profile declare for the team. He’s young, talented, about to break through (in the next few years) with Arsenal, and while that doesn’t guarantee stardom, it still constitutes a profile that the U.S. hasn’t had in its talent pool.

On another level, the meme quality of Zelalem’s U.S. national team potential deserves a reset.  The Berlin-born midfielder of Ethiopian descent who used to live in the United States, coming to the States as a nine-year-old. He trained with the U-15 team but couldn’t play because he wasn’t a citizen. Since, he’s appeared at U-15, U-16, and U-17 levels for Germany. He lacks citizenship, and according to a November report by the BBC, his parents would prefer he play for Ethiopia.

In other words, there’s no reason to be broken-hearted if Zelalem doesn’t play for the United States, because it was always a long shot – one that’s about to go away.

According to the German Football Association’s website, Zelalem has been named to the squad for UEFA Euro U-17 qualifying. Were he to appear for Germany in that competition, he wouldn’t be able to switch the to U.S., with only dual citizens allowed to make a one-time change before appearing at senior level.

Germany’s first qualifier is March 26 against Georgia, but given the 18-man squad plays three games in six days, Zelalem is likely to get at least a cap, particularly considering he’s appeared at this level for Germany before.

But looking that deep into the conversation is overkill. This isn’t a matter of whether Zelalem should or should not be considered American. That’s an entirely different (and more important) discussion, one which sports writers have little to offer the debate. You don’t need Richard Farley’s hot sports take on something academics spend careers pursuing.

This is about eligibility and intent. Is Zelalem eligible to play for the United States? Right now, no. Does he intend to play for the United States? Right now, no. Is there good reason to think the answer to either of these questions will change? Right now, no, and in two weeks, the questions will be even less relevant than they’ve been since Zelalem first appeared for Arsenal in January.

There is, however, some good news: Though Zelalem is unlikely to play for the United States, there are literally thousands of players 17 and younger across the country with real aspirations of a professional soccer career. Some of them are already on the U.S. national team’s radar, with places in Major League Soccer academies and prominent clubs meaning team sites, blogs, and local media are ready to give them coverage. If you really want to see a U-17, future national teamer, there may be one near you.

These players are U.S. players coming through the U.S. system who have real dreams of representing the U.S. They’re not somebody who is moving toward playing for Germany.

The Aron Johannsson example says we shouldn’t close doors, but Johannsson wanted to switch. Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler all self-identified as Americans, at some point.

Zelalem’s been playing for Germany since 2012. And in 2014, he’s likely to make that commitment final. This shouldn’t be news.

Allow me to congratulate Gedion Zelalem, should he play against Georgia. Here’s hoping this is the next step in a long and successful soccer career. That it won’t be with the U.S. shouldn’t make it any less relevant.

USC wins NCAA women’s soccer national championship

Southern California's Morgan Andrews celebrates after scoring a goal against West Virginia during the first half in the NCAA Women's College Cup soccer final, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
AP Photo/Tony Avelar
Leave a comment

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Katie Johnson broke a tie in the 75th minute and Southern California won the NCAA women’s soccer title Sunday, beating top-ranked West Virginia 3-1 at Avaya Stadium on Sunday.

The second-seeded Trojans (19-4-2) also won the College Cup in 2007.

The Mountaineers (23-2-2) lost for the first time since a 1-0 setback to Georgetown on Sept. 18. West Virginia had a 17-game unbeaten streak snapped, and allowed three goals for the first all season.

Johnson, who also had the winning goal in USC’s 1-0 semifinal victory over Georgetown on Friday, was wide open in front of the net when Leah Pruitt took a pass up the left sideline, beat defender Easther Mayi Kith, and delivered a perfect cross. Johnson simply rolled the ball into the goal to the right of goalkeeper Rylee Foster.

Johnson scored again off an assist from Nicole Molen in the 87th minute.

The Trojans got on the board just 1:22 into play after Julia Bingham directed a corner kick to the top of the penalty box, where Savannah Levin headed the ball forward to Morgan Andrews, whose header from 5 yards eluded Foster.

West Virginia’s Ashley Lawrence, a member of the 2016 Canadian Olympic team, tied it in the 66th minute when she ripped a shot from the top left corner of the penalty box just inside the near post.

After USC took the 2-1 lead, the Mountaineers nearly drew even in the 81st minute on a shot by Heather Kaleiohi that was stopped on a diving save by goalkeeper Sammy Prudhomme.

The Mountaineers outshot USC 21-8 and held a 9-1 edge in corner kicks.

The Trojans joined North Carolina (21 titles), Notre Dame (3) and Portland (3) as the only multiple winners of the College Cup.

USC won its 126th national team title on the same day its men’s water polo team lost 10-8 to Cal in the NCAA final just 45 miles away in Berkeley.

West Virginia, in its first College Cup final, was hoping to claim its first NCAA title in any sport besides its co-ed rifle team, which has won 18 national titles.

VIDEO: 70-yard volley from Chile is nearly impossible to believe

Alejandro Camargo, Universidad de Concepcion
1 Comment

His name is Alejandro Camargo, and he scored what might just go down as the best goal of 2016 on Sunday: an impossibly perfect volley from well beyond the halfway line.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

Miguel Pinto is the opposing goalkeeper whose long-range clearance, which covered about 50 yards during the final seconds of Universidad de Concepcion’s clash with O’Higgins in the Chilean first division, was taken off the fly, first-time, by the Argentine midfielder to seal a 3-1 victory for the home side.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

“The coach told us Pinto was always playing in advance of his goal, so I closed my eyes and hit it,” Camargo said after the game.

“Hit it and hope” has never looked so good.

Roma fans stay away from derby to protest new security barriers

A view of a huge section of empty seats as Roma fans desert derby in protest over security barriers, during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and Roma, at the Rome Olympic stadium Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) Roma’s most ardent supporters stayed away from the derby match against Lazio in protest at barriers introduced at the start of last season in their area.

Normally filled with supporters waving huge banners, lighting flares and singing, half of the “curva sud” — southern end — of the Stadio Olimpico was left empty for Sunday’s match.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

Three of Roma’s locally born standouts held a meeting with the “ultra” fans during the week. Captain Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi asked the supporters to return, and the club itself has also tried to resolve the matter.

But the appeals had no effect.

In contrast, Lazio fans filled the northern end of the stadium as usual.

The plexiglass barriers were put in place by city officials for security reasons.

VIDEO: “Behind The Badge: Watford FC” — Episode 2

Leave a comment

In Episode 2 of Behind the Badge: Watford FC, watch the players’ recovery after a win against Leicester, a look at the club’s one-of-a-kind internship program and a flashback to a memorable moment in Watford’s history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

To watch past episodes of Behind The Badge, including last season’s edition featuring a look inside Crystal Palace, head over to the full archive by clicking here.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Above video
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN