Keeping tabs on three intriguing players with Washington area connections …
Local ties: Bethesda, Maryland.
Zelalem is a German citizen of Ethiopian descent who lived in the D.C. area for six years and played his freshman year at Walter Johnson High School in 2011. He excelled on the club level with Olney Rangers in Maryland and, after being identified by Arsenal scouts in the United States, ultimately committed to the Premier League side. During breaks in his school schedule, he would fly to London for informal workouts with Arsenal’s youth set-up. An EU passport cleared the way to join the club full-time upon turning 16 in January. This week, he was among several prospects named to Arsene Wenger’s 24-man squad for a preseason tour to Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan.
Local ties: Manassas Park, Virginia.
Club: Borussia Dortmund.
Flores signed a pre-contract with the Champions League runner-up last fall and is training this summer with the German club’s under-23 squad in Austria. He had two goals and three assists during a 90-minute stint in a friendly Thursday. Although he was supposed to report to the U-19 team next week, reserve coach David Wagner told him he will remain with the under-23s. (Wagner is a German-born former U.S. international who made eight appearances for Steve Sampson in 1996-98.) Flores fell out of favor with Richie Williams at the CONCACAF U-17 World Cup qualifying tournament early this year. Because he doesn’t have a European Union passport, Flores cannot join Dortmund full-time without his parents relocating until he turns 18 next March. However, the club has petitioned FIFA for an exemption that would allow him to move permanently in September (at age 17 1/2). A ruling is expected late next month.
Local ties: Manassas, Virginia.
Club: Sporting Kansas City.
Sapong was loaned to third-division Orlando City this week — a precipitous fall for the 2011 MLS rookie of the year and twice-capped U.S. national team player. A nine-goal scorer last season, the former Forest Park High and James Madison University star has struggled to secure playing time this year and dropped on the depth chart. He has one goal and one assist and started nine of 19 league matches. Big, young and strong with D.C. roots, he would be a natural trade target for goal-starved and striker-deprived D.C. United. However, Sporting Kansas City is not aiming to move him, one source said. Furthermore, Sporting Coach Peter Vermes told the Kansas City Star: “This isn’t a demotion. This is an opportunity. … It was going to be tough for C.J. to get minutes at the moment. There’s a lot of guys that are in form. I have all the confidence in the world that he’ll get back in form, but he just needs to work himself into it.” Sapong played 90 minutes in Orlando’s 2-1 USL victory over the Charleston Battery on Thursday night.