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Sporting KC 2019 Year in Review: Gedion Zelalem

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We continue our look back at 2019 with a prospect for the USMNT who hasn’t quite panned out.

Sporting Kansas City v FC Cincinnati

The 2019 MLS season is one Sporting Kansas City fans will be looking to forget. But with a very long offseason ahead that may not have soccer until March (assuming no MLSPA strike), we feel compelled to look back at the good and the bad from 2019. For the full list of players reviewed, head to our dedicated Year in Review page.


The Blue Testament continues our look back at 2019 with a prospect with lots of potential that may not get fulfilled in KC (or ever) — Gedion Zelalem.

2019 Stats*

Games Played (Started): 9 (5)

Minutes Played: 436

Games Suspended: 0

Goals: 0

Assists: 0

xG (expected goals): 0.17

Positions Played: Both advanced midfield spots (plus holding mid for SPR).

2019 Salary: $77,916.67

Contract Through (Option Years): 2019 (2020, 2021)

*All stats from 2019 MLS regular season unless otherwise noted.

Best Moment of 2019

I really struggled with this. Zelalem was mostly invisible for me. That’s both good and bad. It means he wasn’t making a bunch of mistakes, but he also wasn’t influencing the game. He showed sparks of that creativity he was known for as a United States youth international but mostly he vanished into the shadows. So for that reason, I’ll say his best moment was getting out of purgatory with Arsenal. Even if he doesn’t stick with SKC, he’ll be a free agent to go wherever he may like in 2020.

Worst Moment of 2019

Much like Yohan Croizet yesterday, I’ll say getting benched. His last MLS appearance was July 20th in a 2-0 loss to FC Dallas. He didn’t play in the final 13 MLS games and only briefly appeared again for the Swope Park Rangers. He was reportedly in some sort of dust up with Croizet and it could be a partial reason why they both may not return in 2020 (Yohan, of course, is already gone).

Interesting Stat

These aren’t stats as much as figures. First 23. As in, he’ll be 23-years-old in January. Still very, very young. The next figure is unknown. As in, how much salary will he receive next year? It was reported that he is getting a significant bump in pay if his option is picked up. That makes sense in that he is underpaid now based on his name. But at the same time, does it make sense for Sporting to pick up the option? It might be unknowable since it probably depends greatly on the amount of his proposed raise.

Fan Vote: Keep, Banish or Wait

Keep: 37.2%

Banish: 23.5%

Wait: 39.4%

Zelalem was the only player on the entirety of Sporting KC to get the majority of his votes in the “wait” category. After that vote, he literally never played again so I have to imagine fans would move towards “banish” when he’s supposedly getting a large raise if he stays. Unless he secretly had an unreported injury, I suspect he’s probably gone.

I would love to see what he could do with a full year in the system. Could he be the holding midfielder Peter Vermes envisions him as? He struggled there with SPR at times, but he also got thrown into a bad team with little time to adjust. His large salary will probably doom him, but because it’s bizarro land, SKC will still own his rights when they decline his option.