Gedion Zelalem still leaning to USA; Abby Wambach explains choice - Sports Illustrated

Insider Notes: Zelalem still leaning USA; Wambach explains her choice

Gedion Zelalem is still leaning toward the USA, DeAndre Yedlin still has work to do at Tottenham and Abby Wambach explains her decision to sit out the NWSL season.
Publish date:

On Tuesday, the Germany Under-18 team announced it was calling up Arsenal 18-year-old Gedion Zelalem, the multinational prospect who recently got his U.S. passport. But all signs are still pointing toward the U.S. for Zelalem.

Germany U-18s call in USMNT target, Arsenal prospect Gedion Zelalem

A source close to Zelalem who spoke to the player on Tuesday told me he thought Zelalem would turn down the Germany call-up, adding: “He seems quite set on the United States.” And sure enough, the Germany federation website is no longer listing Zelalem on the U-18 call-up list.

Zelalem was planning to be part of the U.S. senior team this month, but FIFA has not yet given him the clearance paperwork.

The earliest Zelalem could be cap-tied to the U.S. is at this summer’s Gold Cup.

Here are a couple of more insider notes from around the soccer world:

Yedlin a ways away from Spurs first team

U.S. right back DeAndre Yedlin moved to Tottenham in January, but I’m told he has a long ways to go to get on the field for Spurs. Yedlin has yet to make a gameday roster for the first team, and one source tells me Yedlin won’t get a real chance to make an impression on manager Mauricio Pochettino until preseason this summer. The concerns about Yedlin remain the same: His athleticism is impressive, but his defending and his soccer IQ have significant room for improvement.

Wambach explains her decision

I spoke to Abby Wambach at the home she shares in Portland, Ore., with her wife, Sarah Huffman, about Wambach’s decision not to play in the NWSL this year for the Western New York Flash. She went into some detail explaining her choice:

USWNT flips the script, defeats France 2-0 to capture 10th Algarve Cup title

“Whenever you take steps and make decisions in your life … I definitely chose to not be married for a lot of my career because I knew that I needed to have soccer be my No. 1 sole focus to be able to have the career that I’ve had and the successes that I’ve had. So this hasn’t been a light decision. But neither was choosing to get married and start a committed family and a relationship. I think those are values that I was taught in Rochester, in upstate New York, and going back there I wanted to do that for my family, for my town that I grew up in. I think they felt like I’m their special child in a lot of ways, and I appreciate that so much. So I wanted to give back to the community as much as I possibly could.”

“And last summer was a really difficult summer being away from this house that we just bought and built and remodeled. Our friends, our life are here. I think that as I get to a point in my career and the age that I’m at, people don’t understand how hard and taxing it is to go out and train, and to be away. It’s harder to be away. It’s longer trips. I watched Kobe [Bryant]’s documentary the other day. It was fantastic. People may call some of what I am now a little bit lazy, but they don’t understand that I’m just biding my time until I know that I can unleash and have it be the World Cup. And I’ll show up. My teammates know that about me, but I think it’s going to be hard to prove to the fan that I’m not committed to the NWSL.”

“Because I’m still committed to growing the game. I just can’t commit to playing in the games before and after the World Cup. Because my legs, I just have to be smart about it. Obviously, getting injured during the season last year, that definitely played a role. Not just in the confidence in my own body, but confidence in the [artificial] surface that we’re playing on. It’s harder. The ground hurts more, and you’re more susceptible to injury in my opinion. I just think the fewer times I play on an artificial surface, the better for me and the better for my national team. It’s important that people understand that it’s not like I’m just walking away and washing my hands clean of this professional soccer thing. I still want to commit and help the league grow as much as possible.”

“But there’s a time in a player’s career when they get to start making decisions for themselves. I think I’m at that point in my career where I get to not ‘take one for the team,’ that sort of thing. I want to just be happy and ride out the rest of my career as happy as I possibly can.”

USWNT's Alex Morgan feels return to fitness, form with World Cup nearing

​Wambach did say that she’s not calling it quits on the club game. “This is not a retirement from professional club soccer,” she said, “because I don’t know what could happen. I always dreamed of maybe going and playing in Europe for a season or something. But I am getting older. It doesn’t get any easier. I want to have children. I want to have an after-soccer life. And who knows what that will be like?”

“But for right now, looking forward, my focus has to be solely on the World Cup. I know that if we aren’t successful at the World Cup, that will hurt the NWSL … If we win the World Cup, that will be the No. 1 boost that the NWSL could possibly get.”

At one point in our conversation, Wambach talked about wanting to play in the 2016 Olympics. But she’s also thinking mainly about this summer right now in career terms.

“I honestly don’t know what’s happening for me after the World Cup,” she said. “It depends on if we win, it depends on if we don’t win. There are so many factors that are up in the air for me. I’m not going to go and leave a team hanging. I’m not going to commit to something and not return after the World Cup. That in my opinion isn’t cool.”

“I know the Western New York team, and I value their commitment to women’s soccer,” she went on. “[The Sahlens] have lost millions of dollars as a family. And the hardest conversation I had to have was with our coach [Aaran Lines]. I know they’re upset, and I understand why they’re upset. But I also think I’m not going to start something that I can’t finish. That’s why I’m making this decision … Right now this is the best decision I can make.”