The news carries an element of surprise on its own, but the offer itself was initially a surprise to Sunderland himself. During an offseason visit to Spain to see his brother Lawson, a midfielder for Spanish fourth division side Sant Andreu, Sunderland received an unexpected offer to train with Espanyol's U-19 side. The 17-year-old said yes instantly, and later received permission from Cincinnati to train.
"It’s been great so far," Sunderland said, per the FC Cincinnati website. "It’s been an amazing experience, and I’m learning a lot on the field. ... In goalkeeper training, there’s a lot of new techniques, techniques that I haven’t necessarily used before, so it’s been good to experiment with those."
Though there is no end date set for Sunderland's stint in Spain, the 17-year-old is expected to return to Cincinnati ahead of the 2021 MLS season. Cincinnati goalkeeper coach Jack Stern believes it will be a good experience for the goalkeeper before re-joining his team for preseason.
"We want to expose him to as many situations as possible," Stern said. "With someone that young, we’d like to help in his education about the game and mold him as we can."
Sunderland was Cincinnati's first Homegrown signing, and was part of last season's squad, but has yet to make his MLS debut.