U.S. Under-20 and Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem reportedly tore his ACL in the Americans' opening game of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea and is set for a lengthy stint on the sidelines.
Zelalem suffered the injury the first half of a 3-3 draw vs. Ecuador, with his left leg buckling in an unnatural position on a non-contact play. He was replaced by Derrick Jones.
The 20-year-old Zelalem spent the last half of the most recent season on loan from Arsenal at Dutch side VVV Venlo, where he scored one goal in nine appearances. That came after a full season on loan at Scottish club Rangers. Zelalem, whose Arsenal contract runs through the 2017-18 season, is likely out for the rest of 2017, with reports suggesting a nine-month layoff while he recovers.
U.S. Soccer stopped short of calling Zelalem's injury an ACL tear in a statement on Wednesday, adding that he "will consult with the medical teams of U.S. Soccer and Arsenal to formulate a treatment plan."
"For Gedion, this was his second U-20 World Cup so his experience was invaluable for us," U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos said. "His passing ability is second to none in this tournament and we'll miss that. He was running the team from his position. Having said that, I believe in the players we have here and we've already seen what Derrick Jones can do. We are confident that the team is ready for the next challenge."
Born in Germany to parents of Ethiopian descent, Zelalem played as a youth in the Washington, D.C., area before heading to Arsenal and was considered to be among the USA's top up-and-coming prospects in recent years. His decision to represent the USA was a widely praised part of Jurgen Klinsmann's tenure as manager.
The U.S. continues play at the World Cup, without Zelalem, Thursday against Senegal. It will close group play on May 28 vs. Saudi Arabia.