Arsenal youngster and recently-granted United States citizen Gedion Zelalem is good enough to contribute to the senior U.S. national team right now, according to USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann who spoke as part of a roundtable discussion with journalists this week.
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Klinsmann’s comments regarding Zelalem and fellow youngster Julian Green were the most interesting of the bunch, as Klinsmann seemed to contradict himself by preaching patience with one player and ramping up expectations and timetable for the other.
“I want to see how [Zelalem] interacts with the group and what level he’s at. [After that], it’s totally in the open to have him play with the U-23s or with the U-20s for Tab. But he’s a special case. I think he’s already at a level where he can definitely play on the senior team.”
That’s a crazy statement, considering Zelalem has played all of 64 minutes for Arsenal’s first team. Surely Klinsmann should be preaching patience
Speaking of which, let’s check in on the last German-American teen recruited by Klinsmann and handed the keys to the Maserati — otherwise known as a World Cup roster spot — before cracking the 1-minute mark as a first-team player, Julian Green, whose struggles while on loan to Hamburg have been well-documented all season long.
“I got involved in it. A couple of things were said in not the right way. [Green] was surprised that he was suddenly asked to play for [Hamburg’s] second team. And he kind of felt not being appreciated and not being considered good enough to start for the first team. It was tough for him. He thought about that process and he talked with the club and eventually he now plays for the second team just to stay in a rhythm.
“They are keen on him that he will break through. I think it is a good learning curve right now. Yes, when you come to another Bundesliga team from Bayern Munich, you are seen different. It’s not Julian’s fault. It’s just the way it is. They expect you to be their savior and score two goals every game. That’s not Julian Green yet. He’s 19-years-old. He’s a player to be developed.”
Oh, so today we should expect immediate results from Zelalem, but we need to be patient with Green. A pattern emerges.
Of course everyone needs to pump the brakes on calling Green a bust because he’s had one poor season, his first competing for a regular first-team place. Of course he needs time to develop, just as every other young player in the world does or has at some point in their career.
But, I will say this: It’s not the “American soccer community” over-hyping these youngsters, putting unnecessary pressure and expectations on top of them before they’ve ever accomplished anything in their pro careers. It’s Klinsmann, the technical director and head coach of the national team making outlandish statements, time and again, bogging down players with the weight of the most irrational soccer community in the world at 18 and 19 years old.
I think I speak for many when I say to Klinsmann at this point, “Stop speaking. The messages are mixed, contradictory and often times inflammatory. At the very least, be consistent in the things you say.”
Klinsmann also spoke of the latest crop of dual-national players whose services the U.S. program is interested in securing — Club America defender Ventura Alvarado and Club Leon goalkeeper William Yarborough. The entire roundup of quotes is well worth the few minutes it takes to read.