DAVID SMITH - Thursday, December 11, 2008
Since helping the United States to an impressive quarterfinal run in the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, Sal Zizzo has seen his career take steady strides.

Being one of three UCLA Bruins on a squad made up primarily of professional players, Zizzo not only was one of the team's key starters in the tournament, but also put in a performance impressive enough to garner a contract offer from German team Hannover 96.

Even though adjusting to a new country is often a trying experience for a young player such as himself, he was able to call upon a teammate at Hannover who has been through the process before.

"Having Steve [Cherundolo] here has helped tremendously," Zizzo told YA. "He helped me get situated since there are lots of differences in cultures that are hard to understand, and he helped with that."

This season - his first full term with the Reds - has seen the 21-year old winger take on a pivotal role with Hannover's reserve (U-23) team, which currently participates in Germany's fourth tier Regionalliga.

"Playing with the U-23 team obviously isn't what my goal is, but I try to make the best of it and recently and have played well," Zizzo says. "The first [team] coach has been recognizing it, which is a good thing."

Despite competing three levels below the likes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, Zizzo still feels the league offers a high level of play that should not be taken for granted, especially with a wealth of young players looking to make their jump to the first team.

"If you regularly play with the first team and then think you can walk through the U-23 team and the game, it won't happen," Zizzo explained. "You need to stay on your game mentally and be willing to fight."

"That's one thing that there is a lot of with the U-23 team, because the players are trying to move to the next level."

Hannover first-team coach Dieter Hecking has indeed taken notice of his steady play for the U-23s, with Zizzo making the bench on a more regular basis and finding his way onto the field as a substitute on three occasion - twice in league play and once in Hannover's German Cup game against Schalke 04.

While only giving a glimpse of what he has to offer the team, these appearances have given the former Bruin a chance to reflect on his play and his overall development so far during his time in Hannover.

"It's been hard to judge how I've played in my three [first team] appearances," the California pointed out. "I feel I played well in two of them and could have played better in one of them."

"One thing I wish is that I would have gotten more playing time and a chance to show what I can do, but I have to be patient and my time will come."

"The main thing is that I've improved a lot technically and am understanding the game along with thinking faster."

Looking forward to the rest of the season and beyond, Zizzo hopes to continue his progress, with an eye for a shot at extensive first-team action.

"The second half of the season is very important for me. I wouldn't rule out a possible loan move, but I want to play first team soccer - that's my main objective."

Zizzo will hope for inclusion once again on Hannover's bench as they close out the first half of their season against relegation strugglers Arminia Bielefeld on Saturday.

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