When we talk about the crushing wheel of hype we usually talk about its more nefarious qualities. How it destroys appropriate expectation, how it obscures what we see with what we want, how in a number of ways it is calculated branding attached to something for which we’ve allowed our discerning faculties to leave us.
Gedion Zelalem doesn’t care about any of that. He really doesn’t care about any of that. He’s actively trying to make you hype him until the train is off the rails.
How else to explain his Breakout Moment©, Sponsored by Your Dreams, on Tuesday? Zelalem had one of those games in the U.S.’s 4-0 win over New Zealand that brings together every point of the trident. He was not quite a high creator and not quite a box-to-boxer and not quite anything, really, aside from some 8/10 admixture capable of doing silly things.
Like stoking meaningful forays forward from zones just inside the opponent’s half. (DISCLAIMER: The person who originally spliced this together set it to a Method Man song with some, ahem, “explicit” language. Viewer discretion is advised).
Or calmly stepping around trouble and cycling possession.
Or starting and stoking the attack himself.
Or stepping a marker into the ground, creating space and threading in a delicate assist with four defenders crowding your feet.
Or opting for the backheel touch to open the middle of the field instead of taking the outside option, which most of the world expected.
Or ruining a defender with a nutmeg.
Or nonchalantly threading in a rabona cross in the run of play.
Here is Gedion Zelalem’s rabona. pic.twitter.com/EtUlov3ECu
— Over There (@socceroverthere) June 2, 2015
Zelalem is not perfect – lest we forget – and he made his share of mistakes on Tuesday. He was often reticent to pull the trigger on final balls, wasn’t quick enough to release possession and had a tendency to drift. But for a kid getting his first start in a U.S. jersey, you could ask for little more.
So strike up the band and start your campaigns. It won’t be long now until Zelalem makes his full national team debut. Start your whispers about the Gold Cup now.