From French beginnings to MLS setback: What to know about U.S. call-up Romain Gall
Romain Gall is the only new name on Dave Sarachan's United States men's national team roster for the side's upcoming friendlies in Europe against England and Italy.
Here are five things to know about the 23-year-old Malmo midfielder who figures to make his senior international debut in the next week:
1. French connection
Born in Paris, Gall moved to the United States with his family at the age of 7, settling in Herndon, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. After spells playing for the academies of hometown club D.C. United and Real Salt Lake, it was soon back to France for Gall.
At 16, the midfielder returned to France to join the youth setup of then-Ligue 1 side FC Lorient, a move that Gall now credits a lot of his development to. Speaking to FourFourTwo in May, Gall had this to say of his time at Lorient: "Early on, I noticed a big difference in the culture.
"In France, the level was much higher, the speed of play was much faster. The development starts at a younger age. I think they implement more tactical situations, and they have you understand the game.
"I know there were some drills that I was doing really young in France that kids in the U.S. wouldn't be doing until they were much older."
Playing time proved scarce for Gall in France, though, as the then-U.S. Under-18 international was released by Lorient after three years and only a handful of reserve-team appearances.
2. Failed move to MLS
Seeking an opportunity to play regular football at the professional level after his release from Lorient, Gall returned to the U.S. and signed with the Columbus Crew in 2014. The midfielder made his first appearance for Gregg Berhalter's side rather quickly after signing, but his time in Columbus didn't bear much fruit after that.
Gall made three first-team appearances in all, playing just 73 total minutes for the Crew before being loaned out to the now-dissolved Austin Aztex of the United Soccer League for the 2015 season. Gall didn't fare much better in Austin, and at 21, having been released by a European side and an MLS one, Gall's career was at a real crossroad.
3. U.S. youth heroics and disappointment
While Gall's spell at club level with Columbus would prove underwhelming, his return stateside was not completely without benefit. Back playing club football in the U.S., Gall began to appear regularly for the U.S. Under-20s and emerged as one of the side's top goal scorers during the 2014 and 2015 calendar years.
At the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championships, Gall helped the U.S. qualify for the 2015 Under-20 World Cup, finishing as the tournament's joint top scorer, with five goals alongside current Mexico and PSV star Hirving Lozano.
It would not be all good news for Gall with the national team, though, as the ex-Lorient youth teamer was the most surprising omission from Tab Ramos' 21-man roster for the Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
Gall, who led the U.S. in scoring during qualifying, ultimately paid the price for a lack of first-team football at club level and was left to watch the U.S. make an impressive run to the quarterfinals from home.
Romain Gall's brace for Malmo. What a brace that was! He now has 9 goals in the Swedish season. pic.twitter.com/Hzg7B6dvTB— USMNT Videos (@USMNTvideos) August 26, 2018
4. Career turning point
Unable to get his club career off the ground in both France and the United States and coming off the disappointment of being left off the Under-20 World Cup roster, Gall, having suffered a pretty dramatic fall from grace, signed with Swedish third-division side Nykopings in March 2016.
Gall's move to Nykopings would turn out to be the best decision of his career, as the young American hit the ground running, scoring nine league goals and catching the attention of GIF Sundsvall in the Swedish top flight.
It took more than five years, but after signing for Sundsvall, Gall was finally playing regularly for a professional club in a country's top division.
5. Stardom in Sweden
It all finally clicked for Gall in 2018, as no American player in Europe has scored more league goals than the 13 he has to his name this season. After scoring seven times for Sundsvall in the first half of the Allsvenskan, Gall was transferred to Malmo, historically one of Sweden's top clubs.
The 23-year-old added another six league goals after joining the Swedish giants, remarkably finishing as the third-highest scorer in Sweden's top flight with 13 goals. Malmo, who wrapped up Allsvenskan play on Sunday, finished third this season in the league and are still very much alive after four rounds of group-stage play in the Europa League.
With 15 goals and seven assists across all competitions, Gall's breakout season has put him firmly on the radar of the national team, and if the French-born midfielder debuts in either of the upcoming games, he will become the 20th player to make his U.S. debut this calendar year.
On a U.S. team that has looked short of attacking ideas for much of 2018, a player of Gall's attacking credentials is cause for excitement.