Rated as "full of running and tried to take the game to City in the opening stages" by the Sunderland Echo; as "a bright Premier League debut" by the Evening Chronicle and with his work rate and tenacity acknowledged by Roker Report, Lyndon Gooch impressed many on his senior opener.
David Moyes’ first competitive game as Sunderland manager comprised a makeshift midfield and handed Gooch the opportunity to impress and force his way into the boss’s thinking for upcoming games. The likely continuing shuffles of the pack, to cope with injuries to key personnel, leaves Moyes with some interesting decisions ahead; none more so than how best to utilise the hard working American youngster.
Speaking with BBC Radio Newcastle yesterday, Lynden said he was shocked to be named in the starting eleven at the Etihad. Evidently picked for his work rate and energy, and to give Manchester City something to think about, Gooch described his preferred position as a number 10 behind the striker, but that he would happily play anywhere he’s asked to. He described how David Moyes’ faith had given him a huge boost and spoke of what it would mean to make his home debut against Middlesbrough in front of a full Stadium of Light.
It’s certainly been an interesting route from Santa Cruz, via a recent loan spell at Doncaster, to the Stadium of Light for the American. Born to an English father and an Irish mother, he described how watching Premier League football was always a part of his growing up.
His debut at the Etihad came as a surprise, even to those who follow the progress of US-born footballers over here. But having boosted his profile ten-fold, a few more Premier League appearances would also do his chances of breaking into the US national side a world of good. Certainly Lynden acknowledged that he has gone under the radar a little compared with other American youngsters in Europe.
At 5’ 8" Gooch is no physical giant, but he clearly stood above his peers in being spotted by Sunderland scouts at a young age. Indeed his route to the first team in a northern British city’s football team is quite astonishing. Identified by a talent spotter on a school boy tour of Europe, Gooch was tracked by the club and offered a full trial at the age of sixteen. A graduate of California’s Soquel High School, he initially turned out for Santa Cruz Breakers, before crossing the Atlantic.
Sports writer for his home town newspaper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Jim Seimas covered his breakthrough at the weekend with a sense of pride and told Roker Report:
It’s pretty awesome to see a kid who dominated locally as a teenager living out his dream, playing professionally at the high level.
His dad, Paul Gooch said he’s over the moon
I remember him at Soquel High, successfully fighting off triple teams in the midfield and putting passes at his team mate’s feet, or blasting rockets into the net. Lynden, despite being undersized, was among the best that Santa Cruz County has seen.
High praise, and Lynden has a significant and vocal core of observers from the land of stars and stripes who have been following his fortunes. His rise to the fringes of first team Premier League action also does Sunderland’s profile no harm at all. Many American observers of football are really pretty knowledgeable and they bring a slightly new slant on ‘soccer’ from their state-side perspective. They also tend to be quite vociferous in their opinions, particularly regarding the USA’s national side, the USMNT.
Admittedly, Doncaster fans had some reservations about him during his loan spell, but this was mainly because he was shoved up front, out of position. Being hoyed ‘up top’ to lead a line in League Two in the middle of winter is a lonely spot for an inexperienced Californian boy.
So, back to this weekend and Gooch faces stiff competition to retain his place in the side. Whabi Khazri must be knocking on Moyes’ door, especially for a huge home game which is exactly the sort of stage he excelled on last season. Adnan Januzaj offers fresh options; though Duncan Watmore did little to impress in his outing last Saturday, and he is in real danger of becoming known as a from-the-bench-only kind of player. Then Fabio Borini is hovering around as an option for the right hand side or playing through the middle alongside Jermain Defoe and suddenly Sunderland have some options.
There is probably a school of thought which would suggest Lynden might benefit from another season out on loan; but he deserves a chance to stake a claim in the side.
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