SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia – Stateside observers of all stripes were caught by surprise when Sunderland attack prospect Lynden Gooch was handed his first Premier League start in their opening day visit to Manchester City.
Many of you probably have some questions about the player, so we're here to help.
Who is Lynden Gooch?
The 20-year-old Santa Cruz, California native has steadily risen through the youth ranks at Sunderland since joining their academy at the age of 12. Gooch had originally been noticed by the Black Cats two years earlier, when his local youth team made an England trip and he scored a hat trick in the first game.
In addition to being brought back over by Sunderland for multiple training visits, he also worked out with AC Milan and Everton before signing on with the Stadium of Light club. Gooch would eventually sign a pro contract at age 17 and enjoy his breakout campaign with the Sunderland reserves last season, after making his first team debut in an August win over EFL Cup visitors Exeter.
Last term, Gooch scored in each of the Under-21 Premier League season's first three matches to become just the second American to claim the Barclays Player of the Month at that level. Despite playing in only 10 of their 22 league contests, the American finished second on the runners up with five goals and added three assists.
He also spent two months on loan to League One Doncaster starting in late January, notching one assist in 10 games.
What's his game?
Full of pace, pluck and ingenuity, Gooch also packs a rather physical punch despite standing just five-foot-eight. He can operate from the No. 10 slot, from either flank or as a support striker.
The American loves to shoot from distance and has bagged a handful of nasty screamers for the reserves. Last year, Sunderland development director Kevin Ball hailed the youngster as owning technical skills that very few in their youth ranks could match.
How did he fare vs. Man City?
The youngster enjoyed a very respectable EPL debut on Saturday, earning the joint-top mark of “7” in SkySports' Sunderland player ratings. He caused the Citizens a fair bit of trouble on his flank, especially early.
Due to hosts hogging 77 percent of possession, Gooch was limited to just 21 non-defensive touches. He completed five of eight passes, with his best coming on a second minute cross that saw teammate Duncan Watmore force a good save.
Before departing in the 64th minute carrying what could best be described as a handsy, yet slightly harsh yellow card, the US youth international also beat two defenders on the dribble and added a pass interception.
What's his international outlook?
Although he's also eligible to turn out for England or Ireland, Gooch has made it clear on several occasions that his international ambitions are colored red, white and blue. He has seven US U-20 caps to his credit, and though left off the finals squad, helped the team qualify for the 2015 World Cup.
Gooch did accept one Ireland Under-18 call-up in 2013 and started a friendly loss to Switzerland, but stated that it was more of a due-diligence maneuver. “I just wanted to see what it was like,” he told American Soccer Now at the time. “But No. 1 is the US. The US is my country. I definitely want to play for the US.”