Sunderland fans have a new American player to get excited about now that Jozy Altidore has departed. The much-maligned striker scored only two goals for Sunderland after his transfer from AZ Alkmaar in the summer of 2013. Now, an 18-year old American named Lynden Gooch is currently attracting attention playing for Sunderland’s U-21 team.
Lynden Gooch was born in Santa Cruz, California, to Paul and Irene Gooch. Gooch’s father, Paul, was born and raised in England and is currently an accomplished soccer coach in California. Lynden’s brother Anthony is a junior defender for the men’s soccer team at San Diego State University. Raised in a very competitive household, and consistently challenged by his father and brother helped to bring out the best in Lynden. His precocious talent and skill led to his being noticed by Sunderland scouts when he was visiting Europe during a Center of Excellence tour. After observing him in Europe, Sunderland kept tabs on him throughout his adolescence, frequently flying him over for training sessions before bringing him over to the club in June 2012 at age 16. They then signed him to an official professional contract once he turned 17.
Contrary to most new foreign players, Lynden’s transition to life in England was much smoother since his father’s family is close by, residing in Colchester, England. His family connection has helped him to fight off the homesickness that plagues many prospects who attend academies so far from home. Although he considers himself American and wants to play for the USMNT, he also holds Irish, British, and American passports, thus making him eligible to play for all of those teams until he makes a senior commitment. For example, in 2013, Ireland invited him to train and play with its youth national team, and he accepted. For now, he may be committed to playing for the USMNT, but things can change over time; therefore, the sooner Jurgen gets him to commit to the US, the better.
Primarily, Lynden is highly sought after by the Irish and American national teams because of his high ceiling. Although he stands at only 5’8 160 pounds, Lynden Gooch is very strong on the ball and has incredible pace. This clever player demonstrates his versatility, as he can create and finish with both feet (even his heels). Currently, he features as a striker on Sunderland’s U-21 team while Tab Ramos prefers to have him controlling the central midfield on the U-20 US soccer team. Based on his physical characteristics and skills, he is best suited for a number 10, attacking midfield role, where he can create chances for both his teammates and himself. What makes Lynden even more exciting is his ability to take defenders on 1 v 1. There are very few US players who have the ability to create something out of nothing with their dribbling skills. If Lynden continues his anticipated development, he should become the type of talent that can “unlock defenses” with his dribbling.
There is a lot to like about Linden Gooch as a player, and it is easy to see why he was recruited by Sunderland at such a young age. His comfort in England and his technical skills will help him to get the most out of his ability, enabling him to vault himself to the next level. Older players might be worried by Sunderland’s projected relegation, but relegation might be a positive for Lynden. When a team is fighting for its future, every point can make the difference between staying in the top flight or being relegated to the Championship. Every year Sunderland is fighting for survival; as a result they are not well positioned to test out young players during games. Therefore, relegation to the English Championship will constrict Sunderland’s transfer budget and force the management staff to look inward for younger talent to bring them back to the Premier League.
Sunderland’s recent history of poor transfer dealings resulted in the hire of Sunderland’s sporting director Lee Congerton on March 12, 2014. Congerton has repeatedly mentioned that he wants Sunderland to stop focusing on acquiring talent from elsewhere and instead nurture more talent from their academy. At one point he told reporters, “Hopefully in years to come, the loan market won’t be as important as it is today and we will have more players provided from the Academy who belong to Sunderland AFC.” Statements like those are a good omen for the young Lynden Gooch, who is one of the bright spots in the Sunderland youth system. If he can continue to improve, it seem that there is a good chance he will get his opportunity.
Lynden Gooch has a very bright future. He has the talent, the background, and the situation he needs to succeed. If he continues to work hard, then he should improve accordingly. However, while he looks good as a player for Sunderland’s U-21 team, he can expect that it will be difficult to make the transition to first-team soccer. How he would handle that transition remains unseen, but Gooch definitely has what it takes to adapt. All US soccer fans know for sure is that Jurgen Klinsmann should cap him soon, just as he did with Julian Green in this past World Cup. Otherwise, Ireland could come calling—again.