Ex-US striker Taylor Twellman urges caution with Arsenal teenager Gedion Zelalem

Gedion Zelalem

The 18-year-old midfielder is set to feature at this summer's Under-20 World Cup after receiving FIFA's clearance to play for the USA.

Former US national striker and now ESPN pundit Taylor Twellman has warned against building vast expectations surrounding Arsenal prospect Gedion Zelalem before he has had a chance to show his promise on the pitch.

Zelalem, 18, is set to feature for the US at the upcoming Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand after the Berlin-born midfielder received FIFA’s clearance to represent his adopted nation before the official roster deadline on May 15.

The former German Under-17 international, who lived in the States between 2006 and 2013 before joining the Gunners, has been exciting American fans ever since he first emerged as a potential option for the US, while Jurgen Klinsmann has fuelled expectations himself after declaring that he could walk straight into his senior squad

While he has made just two senior cameos for Arsenal so far, comparisons to Cesc Fabregas have had US fans quick to label the slick-passing teenager as the future fulcrum of their side and a shoe-in for the 2018 World Cup line-up.

However, having seen other star American prospects fail to make the grade in the past, Twellman is eager to avoid another Freddy Adu-like situation.

“It’s huge news but this is the first time we’ll have seen him play,” the former MLS MVP told ESPN, following confirmation that Zelalem had been ruled eligible to fill the final spot in head coach Tab Ramos’ 21-man squad.

“He’s still a kid so, before everyone anoints him the saviour of US Soccer, let’s see him play a little bit.

“Let’s see what he does on the big stage of the Under-20 World Cup.

“Before all of us, including myself, burden him with that tag, let’s give him a break and maybe learn from our past mistakes with young players.”

The US will kick off their World Cup campaign on May 30 against Myanmar, before rounding out the group stage with games against hosts New Zealand and Ukraine on June 2 and 5, respectively.

Boasting one of their strongest squads in some time, Ramos' side should have a good chance of making a deep run into the knockout rounds and, if Zelalem can live up to his billing, then the likes of tournament favourites Argentina, Brazil and Germany should watch out.

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