The American forward grew up watching his teammate star for the likes of Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur.
The 19-year-old forward was speaking after winning the Under-21 Premier League’s Player of the Month award for August, having opened the season with three goals in three games.
His eye-catching form even earned the American his senior debut for the club in last month’s 6-3 Capital One Cup victory over Exeter City, when a bright 32-minute display off the bench gave the Stadium of Light crowd a noticeable lift.
An unused substitute for the subsequent 2-2 league draw at Aston Villa, the US Under-20 international is now hoping to become a bigger fixture in the first-team moving forward, not least for the chance to line up alongside Defoe on a regular basis.
He used to watch his fellow attacker while growing up in the States and, as a diminutive goalscorer himself, admits that the former England striker was a big inspiration and someone who he tried to emulate.
“I watched him as a kid during his time at Tottenham and Portsmouth,” Gooch said of Defoe. “He was brilliant as he scored a lot of goals and he gave me a lot of confidence as a fellow small player. To play with him now is even more of a dream.
“I just have to keep working hard in training and hopefully the gaffer will pick me.”
Gooch, who holds a British passport through his Colchester-born father, first joined Sunderland as a trainee in June 2012 amid rival interest from Everton and AC Milan [h/t American Soccer Now], before breaking into the Under-21s towards the end of the 2014-15 season.
Having penned a new deal until 2017 last November, the California-native also got his first taste of senior football in Mach during a month-long loan spell at Conference side Gateshead, where he managed to establish himself as a fan favourite with his energetic outings.
Despite later having to deal with a surprise omission from the USA’s U20 World Cup squad in the summer, his recent progress has not gone unnoticed at Sunderland and a first Premier League appearance now looks to be imminent.
Capable of operating in a number of attacking positions, as well as deeper in midfield, it remains to be seen where the versatile prospect would fit in Dick Advocaat’s side but he believes he is best suited to a No. 10 role.
“I like to be the main attacker, get on the ball and create things,” Good added. “I like to play just off the main striker in the No 10 role. That’s where I have played this season and that’s where I have scored three goals and been a big influence. I can play as a No 9 as well.”
Don’t be surprised then if Gooch is the one creating chances for Defoe in the Sunderland side before long, especially with the club struggling to find any sort of playmaking spark through the first month of the new season.