Debating Chivas USA's pickup, Sal Zizzo
This past Wednesday afternoon saw Chivas USA nab 23-year-old Sal Zizzo in a weighted lottery for the attacking midfielder. With an impressive resume of experience for a player as young as he is, the San Diego native shows promise as a potential star for the Goats in seasons to come if he can settle quickly into MLS play. The real question is, can he? MLSsoccer.com examines four issues to consider as Zizzo preps to make his MLS debut.
1. International Experience – Zizzo has represented the United States at the U-20, U-23, and senior levels. He has only amassed eight total caps between those three squads, but it’s no small matter to be invited to youth national team camps and play alongside guys like Freddy Adu and Jozy Atidore – both of whom were teammates of Zizzo’s at the 2007 U-20 FIFA World Cup. His experience in the global stage may be limited, but it’s still more than many players can claim and will certainly have benefited his composure and technique.
2. Bundesliga Background – Zizzo spent the last three seasons with Hannover 96 in the German Bundesliga. He was only able to make eight first-team appearances due to illness and injury, but three years of training with and learning from a Top Division German side like Hannover will improve any player’s skill and tactics. The hard-tackling, physical style of the Bundesliga is very similar to MLS, and Zizzo’s ability to learn from players like American veteran and Hannover captain Steve Cherundolo will have its benefits for the youngster on the field.
3. Injury Problems – Zizzo has struggled with injury and illness throughout his professional career. His 2009 loan to German Second Division side Fortuna Düsseldorf, a move that should have given him more time on the pitch, was cut short due to sickness, and he missed the entirety of the following Hannover 96 season with a torn ACL. Much of Zizzo’s success at Chivas USA will rely on his ability to get over the knee damage and to stay healthy. If he cannot, he will likely become a new version of John O’Brien, the former US World Cup veteran who struggled with injuries and never made the impact in MLS that most expected.
4. The Unknown Quantity – The biggest thing standing in Zizzo’s way is his lack of first-team experience. Since turning pro, the midfielder has played startlingly small number of actual first-team games. An impressive two years at UCLA suggest that he is capable of being a highly productive member of the attack, but he hasn’t shown those kinds of numbers since leaving the Bruins. The Red-and-White are banking that a healthy Zizzo is a productive Zizzo, but the truth is that remains to be seen at the pro level.