Lynden Gooch Ready to Make His Mark for the USMNT

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Last Word On Soccer, John Bava

When discussing top young prospects expected to be the future of the USMNT, the first person who comes to mind is obviously Christian Pulisic. And why not? The 18-year-old wunderkind is seeing regular minutes in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund. But another young gun might be on the cusp of enhanced notoriety among fans of the Stars and Stripes: Lynden Gooch.

Lynden Gooch Ready to Make His Mark for the USMNT

Gooch received his first ever call-up to the senior national team this week ahead of friendlis against Cuba and New Zealand. Game one takes place Friday in Havana (4 PM ET, ESPN2) and it marks the US’ first exhibition match on Cuban soil since 1947. Four days later, the team faces the Kiwis at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. (8 PM ET, ESPN).

Much like Pulisic, Gooch is a youthful, attack-minded midfielder who is starting to see consistent playing time in a major European league. The Santa Cruz, CA native has made four starts and played a total of 290 minutes for English Premier League side Sunderland. It’s his first significant action with the senior team after having been in their academy system since 2012.

His debut could adequately be described as a trial by fire. The 20-year-old made his first EPL start for the Black Cats against league titans Manchester City on the road at the Etihad Stadium. He played 65 minutes in a game that was tied 1-1 before an 87th minute Sunderland own goal enabled City to pull out a late result.

Since then, it’s been a season fraught with adversity for the Wearsiders. They currently sit dead last in the Premiership, having obtained just two points from seven matches. But that’s not to say Gooch hasn’t demonstrated an ability to hold his own against top-level talent.

Gooch as Provider of Chances and Purveyor of Take-Ons

With Sunderland as well as during a loan stint for Doncaster Rovers last year, Gooch has tended to line up primarily on the wings. Being efficient with one’s movement while excelling at generating chances and taking on opposing defenders is a must in that role. And the eye test combined with Opta stats paint a pretty picture regarding his potential.

Take the following quick clip of Gooch playing for Doncaster last year.

That’s Gooch who’s initially on the ball. And how good was that flick to his teammate making the diagonal run towards goal? Unfortunately, the finish left a lot to be desired. But his vision in being able to anticipate his teammates’ movement to create viable chances is on full display.

Being competent on the dribble and having the ability to take defenders on is another indispensable element of solid wide play. That’s how space gets created, defenses get opened up and, in many cases, goals get scored. If you don’t think Gooch has this in his repertoire, perhaps a glance at the following visual might change your mind.

Now, if only the shot at goal could’ve stayed a wee bit lower.

Statistically speaking, Gooch has succeeded in carrying over these skills from lower-division football to the Premier League. His 1.2 key passes per 90 is second on the team behind Adnan Januzaj among players who’ve seen at least 250 minutes of action. And only 37 other players in the EPL who’ve seen appreciable time have more successful dribbles per 90 than his 1.9.

Why Jurgen Klinsmann Should Call His Number

USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann shouldn’t have much reticence to give Gooch a shot at some point during these two friendlies. Both come against overmatched opposition on paper. In Cuba’s case, it may be doubly so. The US routed them 6-0 in their last meeting during the quarterfinals of the 2015 Gold Cup.

There also is the small possibility that he could play elsewhere. Gooch is the son of a British father and Irish mother and actually has one appearance with Ireland‘s under-18 team in 2013. Even if he plays Friday or Tuesday, he isn’t officially cap-tied to the US until he plays in a meaningful international at senior level (ex: World Cup Qualifier). But giving him match experience now can only help him down the road.

Having said all that, the talented young midfielder is certainly ecstatic to have been called up.

“I’m really proud to be have been called up to the USA squad,” Gooch told Sunderland’s website. “I have spoken to Jurgen three or four times over the last month so it’s going to be a great moment to meet up with the squad and get my first cap.”

The fact that he appeared on Klinsmann’s radar is a testament to the hard work he’s put in at his club. Playing top-flight football in the one of the world’s best leagues at such a young age is no small feat. In due time, we may see another American starlet’s hype train leaving the station and running at full speed.