While Jozy Altidore’s time at Sunderland looks to heading towards an unceremonious end, one of America’s most exciting prospects appears set for a bright future at the Stadium of Light.
18-year-old Lynden Gooch inked a fresh three-year deal with the Premier League club on Monday, and there are plenty of reasons for fans on Wearside to be excited about the US Under-20 international’s career prospects.
Gooch, a California-native, first came to the attention of Sunderland at just 10 years old when he travelled to the UK on a Centre of Excellence tour, with the club subsequently bringing him back from the States twice a year to train with the academy.
Also boasting British and Irish passports, the promising attacker then joined the Black Cats on a full-time basis in June 2012, at the age of 16, before signing his first professional contract on his 17th birthday, moving a step closer towards fulfilling his dream of emulating the likes of Clint Dempsey by playing in the English top-flight.
Having made 25 appearances for the Under-18s last season, Gooch has since established himself in the Under-21 side this term, overcoming his diminutive stature to stand out for his dynamic play, and proving why the likes of AC Milan and Everton were also reportedly interested in his signature.
Comfortable using both feet, the versatile youngster is capable of playing as a forward or on the winger, and has even featured as defensive midfielder for the US U-20 team, though many have earmarked him as a potential candidate to fill he number 10 role at the 2018 World Cup given his similarities to the soon-to-retire Landon Donovan.
Currently at a training camp in Marbella with the US team ahead of friendlies against Russia, Ireland and Canada, Gooch also earned a call-up to the Republic of Ireland’s Under-18 squad last year, but he stresses that the Stars and Stripes remains his preference.
“I just wanted to see what [Ireland] was like,” he told American Soccer Now. “I tried it out but then the U.S. called me up again. But No. 1 is the U.S. I’m from California. The U.S. is my country. I definitely want to play for the U.S.”
Gooch ultimately has a long way to go to break into Sunderland’s first-team but, if he continues to progress towards fulfilling his undoubted potential over the coming seasons, then his natural creative and technical skills won’t go unnoticed.