United States youth international Lynden Gooch made his Premier League debut in Sunderland's 2-1 loss to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Gooch put in a solid, blue collar 65-minute performance on the left side of the 4-2-3-1. He was involved in the attack and didn't look out place, playing several dangerous crosses and displaying a willingness to dribble at defenders. His only true blemish was a first half yellow card, which he earned after pulling down Raheem Sterling. A "glass half full" observer would claim that the caution demonstrates his willingness to track back on defense and get stuck in.
It's difficult to judge whether the 20-year old midfielder was a tactical fit, as one cannot be sure what David Moyes' game plan was against the clearly superior opponent. Gooch tended to hang back unless it was one of the few times that Sunderland established possession, not pressing the back line or rushing into the attack.
It was a solid first appearance that was somewhat unexpected. Gooch impressed at the youth levels and during brief loan appearances with Doncaster Rovers and Gateshead, but his true status with the Black Cats was never clear. He always seemed to be bubbling under the radar, stuck in the reserve team and loan limbo from which many players never escape.
Perhaps his debut shouldn't be considered such a surprise. Despite a lack of playing time with the senior team, the 2015-2016 season was a productive one for the debutante. Gooch was named the Barclays U-21 Premier League Player of the Month in September and signed a three-year contract extension in April.
Starting the first match of the season and not making any catastrophic mistakes under a newly appointed manager certainly bodes well for his future. He may be relegated to the bench once reinforcements arrive, but it appears that he's solidly in the club's plans for this season.
Naturally, now that he's made a single appearance in the Premier League, the national team conversation begins. Gooch made four appearances with the U-20s in the 2015 CONCACAF Championship, but didn't make the squad for the U-20 World Cup. It remains to be seen if he's already forced himself into Jurgen Klinsmann's squad for September's World Cup Qualifiers or if he'll be waiting a little longer.