Gedion Zelalem limped out of the USA's opening game of the 2017 Men's U-20 World Cup with his team 2-0 down. The young Americans fought back without him, securing a 3-3 draw against Ecuador. They will have to fight on without him too: US Soccer has announced Zelalem has suffered a knee injury that rules him out for the tournament. Per Football London, the injury is a torn ACL that will see the Arsenal prospect sit out most of the next season.
The injury is a significant set-back for the player, who has spent the last couple of seasons on loan to second-tier teams (Rangers in the Scottish Championship in 2015-16; VVV-Venlo in the Dutch Eerste Divisie from January 2017). The U-20 World Cup was to have been an opportunity for him to raise his profile again, and perhaps secure a higher-level loan for next season.
His first and only brief appearance at the U-20 World Cup suggested he was to be played in a deep-lying role by USA head coach Tab Ramos. The initial impression was this wasn't a great use of his talent, as the Americans quickly fell into a two-goal hole against Ecuador. And the necessary defensive platform for the team to work its way back into the match appeared more secure once Derrick Jones replaced Zelalem.
But it is a blow for a talented young player nonetheless, and one less option in the squad for Ramos at the World Cup. The USA U-20s have already suffered the loss of presumptive starting full-back Marlon Fossey prior to the tournament. Now another starter is out of action.
The USA plays Senegal in its second game of the U-20 World Cup group stage on May 25. Kick-off is at 7:00 am, Eastern.