The Reserve List
Beyond Gedion Zelalem, U.S. Youths Making Big Strides
May 18, 2015
WHAT'S THE MOST EXCITING THING about Arsenal reservist midfielder and guaranteed, 100%, can’t-miss, magical wunderkid Gedion Zelalem being given approval by FIFA to represent the United States? That we may actually be able to see him play!
Minutes after U.S Soccer President Sunil Gulati tweeted the news about Zelalem the U.S under-20 World Cup roster was finalized with Zelalem taking the final seat on Air Ramos' flight to New Zealand.
Considering the federation waited for the Zelalem situation to clear up before naming the final roster, it’s easy to expect a lot. It’s also easy to be pessimistic—an instinct hammered home by decades of failed U.S. soccer saviors—and in light of some recent examples perhaps it’s best that he get his feet wet with the youth ranks before jumping in with the senior team.
On the field? Just check the YouTube videos. A technically skilled midfielder, Zelalem has excellent field vision and typically is the guy to make the pass that sets up the final pass. Usually deployed in a No. 8 role with Arsenal, Zelalem creates some interesting lineup choices for Ramos. Does he walk into the starting XI? Can he start alongside both Emerson Hyndman and Joel Sonora? Will Ramos regret leaving home Philadelphia’s Zack Pfeffer, who offers a threat on the wing?
Answers will be coming soon. The team arrived in Australia on Friday, where Zelalem and other European-based players will join the squad before friendlies against Serbia and the host country later this week. The Americans kick off Group play against Myanmar on May 30 in Whangarei, New Zealand.
U-20 ROSTER UPDATES
On the club side, Zelalem got the start for the Gunners' reserves last Monday, playing 68 minutes in a 3-1 win over Bolton Wanderers.
Good news for another late-arriving U-20 call-up, Groningen’s Desevio Payne signed his first pro contract with the Dutch club this week. The 19-year-old—profiled here by ASN’s Brian Sciaretta—will begin full-time with the club’s first team next season.
Jordan Allen is heading to the World Cup on a high note after two strong performances for Real Salt Lake last week, including providing two assists (one real, one hockey) in a 2-1 win over Chicago Fire on Saturday. He also does stuff like this…
Encouraging news for the U-20s, midfield anchor Emerson Hyndman appears to be back to full fitness for Fulham, suiting up last Friday for the club’s reserve side in a 2-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur. Unfortunately, with the loss Fulham were relegated from the U-21 Premier League Division 1. American under-17 midfielder Luca de la Torre played the final 37 minutes for the vanquished Whites, while Cameron Carter-Vickers did not suit up for Tottenham.
Molde goalkeeper Ethan Horvath will not be traveling to the U-20 World Cup after all. Currently acting as the team’s backup keeper, the Norwegian club refused to release Horvath for the tournament. After posting a shutout last week in a 2-0 Norwegian Cup win over Traeff, Horvath remained on the bench for the club’s 2-1 league loss to Lillestrom on Monday. He will be replaced on the U-20 roster by University of San Diego goal keeper Thomas Olsen.
After month of featuring for “Unattached FC”, U-20 defender Shaq Moore signed his first professional contract on Sunday, inking a deal with Spanish third-division side Huracan Valencia. Moore has been training with the club’s first team, currently in contention for a promotion playoff spot heading into the final match of the season.
Rubio Rubin was back in the first XI for Utrecht this week. Getting the start up front, the Oregon native played the full 90 minutes in a 2-2 draw with Excelsior—his 27th appearance of the season. And what do you know? ASN also profiled Rubin this past week, who spoke about what he learned in his first season as a professional and the upcoming World Cup.
The domestic-based U-20 contingent continues to see quality minutes with Erik Palmer-Brown (90 minutes vs. DC), Kellyn Acosta (60 minutes against Los Angeles), Tommy Thompson (72, Colorado) and Bradford Jameison IV (14, FC Dallas) all featuring for their respective MLS sides.
Matt Miazga also picked up a start last weekend for the Red Bulls in the highly anticipated New York derby against NYCFC. Thirty-six minutes later he was gone, shown his second yellow card after a hard, drag-down tackle at midfield.
AROUND THE HORN
Yeah, so this is a nice goal. Check out West Ham United’s Djair Parfitt-Williams scoring on a unstoppable blast during a 2-1 loss to Everton on Friday.
Parfitt-Williams, who has started six of the last seven for the Hammers, drew high praise from U-21 manager Steve Potts after the match. “He’s a great player he just needs to become more consistent, that’s his aim now,” Potts said. “He showed the magic he can do it’s just whether he can do it on a more consistent basis. Can he do that regularly in the final third and make things happen.” We will stay tuned for official news of his international status.
After missing four consecutive weeks for Monterrey, Olympic hopeful Alonso Hernandez was back in the starting XI for Los Rayados reserve side on Saturday, playing the full 90 and scoring his sixth goal of the year in a 2-0 win over UNAM Pumas.
Reading forward Andrija Novakovich, bound for first-team duty next season, continues to feature heavily for the club's reserve squad. On Monday, the six-foot-four forward started for the Royals, playing 90 minutes in a 2-1 loss to Wolverhampton. The defeat means Reading will finish as runners-up in the U-21 Premier League Division Two.
U-20 forward Gboli Ariyibi made a late substitute appearance for League One side Chesterfield on Sunday, playing the final 23 minutes of the club’s second leg promotion playoff series against Preston North End. The match ended in a 3-0 defeat and Chesterfield fell by a 4-0 aggregate score. Ariyibi ends the season with a respectable 18 appearances.
Cody Cropper made his return to the Southampton U-21 starting lineup on Monday, shutting out Leicester City in a 2-0 win for the Saints. The match was Cropper’s first 90 minute performance for the club since suffering a serious concussion in early January.
ASN Contributing Editor Josh Deaver is a former academic turned soccer obsessive. Follow him on Twitter.