Emerson Hyndman – The Next Michael Bradley?

To many American soccer fans, the surname Hyndman will sound familiar. That is because Emerson Hyndman’s grandfather is Schellas Hyndman, former head coach of Dallas FC from 2008-2013 and runner-up MLS cup finalist in 2010.  

The apple did not fall far from the tree. In 2011, after a stint in the youth system of FC Dallas, the 15-year old Emerson joined the Fulham youth system. Since his arrival he has been very impressive, playing for the first team since the start of the 2014 season. His exploits for the youth squads of the USMNT, along with his rise through the ranks to Fulham’s first team, are key indicators of what he could bring to the USMNT if he continues to develop.

In joining Fulham, Emerson Hyndman could not have chosen a better team’s youth system. It is well-known that Fulham and its fans have a soft spot in their hearts for American soccer players. Kasey Keller, Clint Dempsey, and the venerable Brian McBride are just a few of the American talents who have enjoyed successful careers at Craven Cottage. Fulham’s openness to American talent, especially when most European teams seem to shy away from American players, has even earned it the moniker “Fulhamerica.” Therefore, unlike many club academies in Europe, Emerson was sure to have a fair shot at proving himself at Fulham; fortunately, he took that chance.

Throughout his entire career at Fulham Emerson has impressed the coaches and staff with his vision and work ethic. His hard work was finally rewarded this season, thanks to Fulham’s relegation. Fulham fans would not see their relegation as fortuitous, but for Emerson Hyndman, this was impeccable timing. When a team is relegated, its transfer budget for new players becomes extremely limited. Had Fulham avoided relegation, the team would have brought in more talent to strengthen itself; being relegated prevented it from doing so.

Relegation also prompted a few of its players to jump ship in order to stay in top-flight competition, thus further decreasing its ranks of talented players. No longer able to reinforce itself from other sources, Fulham was forced to look inward. Doing so allowed academy products such as Emerson a chance to prove themselves. Emerson got his first start for the Fulham first team on August 9. Since then Emerson Hyndman has played six additional games. Because Fulham currently have an unsettled starting line-up there will be chances for Emerson to get first-team opportunities.

Anyone who has seen Emerson Hyndman play lauds his technical ability. He has great vision, and he is a master at both short and long-range passes. His spatial and game awareness are still developing, but that is the case with most 18-year-old academy products. These skills will only get better as he gets more time on the first team. Playing time will not be hard to come by either, as Fulham’s former head coach, Felix Magath, has a very high opinion of Emerson.

In a conversation with Fulham’s website, FulhamFC.com, Magath even went so far to describe Emerson Hyndman’s role on a team as similar to Andrea Pirlo’s role on the field because of Emerson’s ability to see the field and make the right passes to advance the team from a deep position. It is a great sign when a head coach holds an academy product in such high esteem. Magath’s opinion still holds a significant amount of weight within the organization even if he was let go.

Currently, Michael Bradley occupies the role of midfield orchestrator on the USMNT; however, because of his subpar play at the 2014 World Cup, his recent move to MLS, and his advancing age, he might only hold onto that role until the end of the 2018 World Cup before youth begins to change the dynamic of the USMNT starting lineup. If all goes according to plan for Emerson Hyndman, he can be next up to be the deep-lying midfielder that the USMNT so desperately needs.

His vision and sublime passing make him an ideal future replacement for Michael Bradley, and his current tutelage means he has a much higher ceiling than Michael Bradley has. Emerson Hyndman can be the deep-lying metronome type midfielder Michael Bradley was supposed to become but it will take time for him to obtain those lofty ambitions. The next four years will determine whether Emerson takes the right steps to reach that ceiling, or stagnates.

While an English Championship team is not the optimum spot for a 25-year-old player trying to break into the USMNT, this is of little concern to Emerson at this point. The English Championship is not a bad place for young American players to develop. Each of the teams has good academies and plays quality competition. Also because lowers budgets keep Championship teams from bringing in expensive talent, younger and less expensive academy products like Emerson find that they are not relegated to the bench.

The major concern for Emerson is whether Fulham continues to sink to the lower depths of the English soccer tiers. At the moment, Emerson is in the perfect situation, as long as he keeps an eye on his future. In the Championship he can learn a lot.

However, if Fulham continues to struggle, then Emerson must view his time on the first team as an audition for other teams in Europe. Especially since the team’s continued struggles have already lead to Felix Magrath being fired and was recently replaced by Kit Symons. New coaches mean new tactics and new ideas which Emerson Hyndman may not necessarily fit into. He needs to keep moving forward, the worst thing he can do is let himself get dragged down with Fulham if it continues to slide.

First Published in First Touch

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