Zyen Jones, a 17-year-old forward, is set to become the latest American to move to Germany in search of playing time he can’t find in the U.S. Jones, who went on trial with Schalke in January, will move from Atlanta United’s academy to Schalke’s U-19 team when he turns 18 in August.
— Schalke 04 USA (@s04_us) February 19, 2018
Zyen Jones will join a number of Americans at the Gelsenkirchen club, including Weston McKennie, Haji Wright and Nick Taitague. McKennie, 19, has become a regular for Schalke’s senior side, Wright is currently out on loan and Taitague is still in the Knappenschmiede youth academy, which has produced the likes of Manuel Neyer, Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler and Leroy Sane.
Massive thank you to everyone who's helped along this hard and long journey s/o to @corygibbs the best agent out there also Thank you @atlutd and all the coaches especially @TonyAnnan1 and last but not least my dad without you none of this would be possible I love you #TeamWass pic.twitter.com/WsOqzda4R9— Zyen Jones (@Kingzyen) February 19, 2018
The question many USMNT fans will be asking is if Jones can be the next Christian Pulisic — or at least another Weston McKennie.
The Bundesliga has long been a haven for Americans playing abroad, perhaps even more so than the English Premier League, despite the language differences. From Paul Caligiuri at FC St. Pauli in the 90s to Steve Cherundolo at Hannover in the 2000s, there have always been Americans featuring strongly for German clubs. Never has that been truer than now, with John Brooks, Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, McKennie, Pulisic and more all regulars in the Bundesliga.
Zyen Jones has yet to play a professional match or appear for the senior national team, but he’s shown plenty of promise with the USMNT youth setup. He scored two goals for the U.S U-17 team at the CONCACANF U-17 Championships in 2017 on a team that included Timothy Weah (PSG) and Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen).
From those two finishes, it's clear he has a knack for goal and the desire to get into the right positions to finish plays, an important attribute at the top level.
Jones came through the Atlanta United academy, which launched in 2016 and already has produced first-team talent for the Five Stripes such as Andrew Carleton. The Atlanta United academy sent Carleton, Chris Goslin, Justin Garces, Alessandro Castro and Alexander Bahr to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India in October, the latter two with the Honduran squad.
Congrats homie we all eating now. https://t.co/sSofHFnKrZ— Andrew Carleton (@andrewcarleton7) February 19, 2018
Chris Gloster, a New York Red Bulls academy player, joined Jones on trial with Schalke but does not appear to have a contract offer on the table. So Jones clearly had to work to earn his roster spot.
Jones has a long way to go to get to the level of Pulisic, or even McKennie — he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page yet. But given his young age he still has plenty of time to develop and he appears to have many of the necessary tools to thrive. Choosing to go abroad gives him a leg up on many other USMNT players staying home at a time when MLS clubs seem more interested in buying young South Americans than giving playing time to young Americans.
Zyen Jones will definitely be one to watch moving forward.