When Lyden Gooch was introduced for his first team debut on the sixtieth minute of the Carlisle United friendly just a few weeks ago you could be forgiven for not actually recognising who he was. The fact, however, is that he is very highly rated by both the coaching staff at the Academy of Light and by USMNT U20's head coach Tab Ramos, who has made Gooch an integral part of his squad ahead of the 2015 FIFA U20's World Cup. Club Tijuana forward Paul Arriola, Lynden's USMNT U20's team mate, referred to him "Very good player," who is "physically just a monster".
His talent is raw, but special.
Gooch is diminutive in size but has incredible pace and core strength to make up for his lack of height. He plays in the mould of the modern day attacking midfielder and is capable of playing just about anywhere across the attack, though is best either off the right or in the traditional 'number ten' role. Although Lynden works hard, his strength is in creating opportunities for his team mates and scoring goals. For his country he tends to play in the centre of midfield.
Gooch comes from a 'soccer' family - his English father Paul is a coach in the Santa Cruz area of California, where they hail from, and his brother Anthony has had a relatively successful career at college level, trialing with both AC Milan and Everton as a youngster. It was his dad who was his big influence, helping him to become the type of player that he is today. "My Dad always wanted us to be something different. He didn’t want to see us just be simple players. He always wanted us to have flair and take people on, score goals, and make a difference. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of stuff", he told AmericanSoccerNow.com in April.
Spotted at just ten years old whilst playing on a Centre of Excellence tour of Europe by a Sunderland scout, Lyden was invited over to the North East from then on twice a year in order for the club to keep a track of his progress. Then, when aged sixteen, Gooch was offered a full trial and it was an opportunity he firmly grasped with both hands - chances for American youngsters to earn youth contracts with Premier League sides don't happen all that often. His trial was a success - the club knew all about him already - and he was offered a three year deal in January 2012, starting as a first year scholar and moving to England ahead of the 2012/2013 season. Rather amazingly, this is his eighth year that he's effectively been on Sunderland's books.
Lynden, along with George Honeyman, stood out a mile during his brief cameo appearances against Carlisle United and Hartlepool United just a few weeks back. Perhaps it's his youthful exuberance, but he looked unfazed and focused on impressing both the fans watching and Gus Poyet, the man who afforded Gooch and his development squad teammates the opportunity to show him what they can do on a slightly bigger scale.
It will be interesting to see how Lynden progresses over the next few seasons - despite the expectation, he's still just eighteen years old and the club will be keen to nurture his talent in the hope that one day he'll be ready to play as part of our first team. Lee Congerton has spoken regularly of his wishes for Sunderland to produce more players ready for the first team from our academy under his stewardship, giving the likes of Gooch the hope that they'll be afforded better opportunities in comparison to the academy graduates from recent years gone by that have fallen by the wayside. It's a process - Congerton wants to give more focus to gaining better loan deals for our youngsters at as high a level as possible, readying our best talent for Premier League football.
Aside from his obvious talents Gooch appears to be a very grounded young man, coming from a family that understand the business of the career path he's set to take, and has shown immense maturity by leaving his homeland at such a young age in the hope he can one day achieve his dreams of playing in the Premier League.
If you'd like to see more of Lynden he's expected to be a part of the U21s squad that will play against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday the 15th of September, live on MUFCTV.