Many players that pass through the academy setup of a Premier League club rely upon good timing in order to get their breaks.
Lynden Gooch is no exception - having put the hard yards in over the last decade or so, the young American has finally announced himself both in the Premier League with Sunderland and with his national team after seeing all of his lucky stars align. Sunderland's litany of problems with their playing staff have seen Lynden feature perhaps more than many expected at the start of his season, whilst similarly the United States are suffering with injuries to key players which has allowed Gooch the chance to play for his country.
Gooch's story is an interesting one. You all know he's from the United States - Santa Cruz California, to be exact - and you all know that he has been in the Sunderland youth set up for a very long time, but how many of you know just how he came to arrive on Wearside? I'd hazard not many. And yet, with Lynden now firmly a part of the Sunderland senior set up, the tale of how he became a Premier League footballer is one that should fill us with immense pride, knowing that somewhere along the line our club have managed to get it right with the development of our best young players.
Gooch comes from a lineage of soccer-playing men - his father is a coach in the Santa-Cruz area of California, whilst his brother had a decent college football career in the States. He was first spotted when playing at a Centre of Excellence tour of Europe as a ten year old and since then he's firmly been a part of Sunderland's academy plans, with the youngster frequently coming across to Wearside during his summer holidays to play and train at the Academy of Light, something he did until he was old enough to move here permanently at the age of sixteen.
You can say what you want about the quality of the product leaving the Academy production line over the years since its inception, but the nurturing of Lynden from a very young age gives us hope that there is a structure in place to ensure that we get the very best from the young talent that we have coming through our system.
And it was those steps taken around a decade ago which sees him where he is today - at the age of twenty he's became a semi-regular feature in the side of a Premier League club, something which has given him the platform to earn his chance in his national team. And though Gooch has only just made himself known on Wearside this summer, he's been a part of the USMNT youth system at every level. Klinsmann will have known of Gooch long before he selected him to be a part of his senior squad last week.
And it didn't take Gooch long to make himself known. An article on the NBC Sports site looking at last night's game was complimentary of Lynden's offerings in his debut for the Americans:
Lynden Gooch made an impact in his debut, subbing into the game for the final 30 minutes. After nearly causing Marinovic to give away in a poor position, he ended up with the ball on the right wing. His cross fell to Green, who shot over the bar.
Gooch and Bradley then combined to force a great save from Marinovic, and Gonzalez headed another chance wide in the third minute of stoppage. Gooch had an excellent debut.
He's certainly impressing people, though his start to life as a Sunderland first team player has been tough.
You see, attempting to break through in a team that is struggling isn't easy, and though there won't be a great deal of pressure on him from Sunderland supporters to make an immediate impact, you'd imagine that Gooch himself will be keen to ensure he doesn't waste the opportunity that has been afforded to him. Lynden acknowledged the way he's being managed in a recent interview with ESPN."I think that’s normal for a young player (to be brought in and out of the side). You’re not going to be able to play every game. I started four games straight off the bounce. I think that was a surprise, but they manage players well. I think you’ll get burned out if you play every second after making that jump."
And whilst what Gooch is saying is very true, the natural step now is for him to cement his spot in the team over the coming season. David Moyes has many injuries to contend with and even with everyone fit his attacking midfield options are slim. Gooch now has the opportunity to take advantage of this and I have confidence that he will - providing he's played in the correct position, of course.
If David Moyes switches to the 5-3-2 system as many of us expect, it gives Lynden the opportunity to play in a role that suits him best - as a number ten at the head of a three-man midfield. He's busy, hard-working, quick, has a low centre of gravity and is good on the ball - all qualities that make him ideal as a ten in a Sunderland side that is crying out for a natural link between defence and attack.
Whilst Wahbi Khazri is perhaps a better fit for that job right now, there will be opportunities for Gooch to make his mark on our struggling side and even hold down a place should he impress suitably.
We love nothing more than seeing one of our own doing well for themselves - one look over at Twitter in the last few days shows a stream of messages from proud Sunderland supporters lauding the fact that Jordan Henderson captained England yesterday evening - and whilst Gooch doesn't hail from these shores he certainly feels like one of us. In order to restore some faith in our club from the supporters, ensuring talented youngsters like Lynden make it here is crucial.