Sometimes the route to first-team football for an academy player leads away from the senior team, requiring a move to a different club. This new outfit can be in the same league, at a different level on the pyramid, or even in a new country. After signing with Reading a few weeks ago, Tyler Bindon immediately assumed a role in the starting lineup and is standing out in League One. The 18-year-old dual-national centre-back has impressed with his performances during the young season.
Born in New Zealand and the son of former Football Ferns goalkeeper, Jenny, Bindon was a multi-sport athlete and played with East Coast Bays before relocating with his family to the United States. He then joined the Los Angeles FC academy and was expected to feature with the MLS NEXT Pro side. Despite committing to the University of Washington, the defender spent time “trialing around England” after moving for “family reasons,” including six months with the Reading first team, appearing in multiple preseason fixtures and traveling to preseason camp in Spain.
The Royals made the deal official and signed him to a two-year contract. “Tyler is a bright lad both on and off the football pitch who has the work ethic and determination for a successful career in the sport,” said Head of Football Operations Mark Bowen. “It was clear very early on that we wanted to bring him in, but we have all had to be very patient to get this deal done. So we are extremely happy to have fended off serious interest from high-profile clubs, finalised the deal, and see him join us – and we look forward to seeing him develop and learn at this club.”
Bindon got off to a quick start in England and started in the first round of the EFL Cup, going the full 90 minutes in a 4-0 victory over Millwall. After appearing on the bench for the League One opener, he played for the whole match in 1-0 and 2-0 wins against Cheltenham and Stevenage, respectively, and earned praise for his composure despite making a few mistakes. In the latter fixture, his lofted through ball to the winger sparked the sequence that led to the second goal. Unfortunately, a concussion suffered during training kept him out of last weekend’s fixture and likely an upcoming cup tie. Following relegation from the Championship last season, Reading is looking to quickly return to the second tier, and the new signing could be a key part of the campaign.
“It’s a privilege to be here and be a part of the Royals,” Bindon shared with the club’s official website. “[England] is very different, but I am enjoying it a lot. The weather is pretty much what people say it is, gray, but I’m still loving it, loving every minute that I’m here... The [management, staff, and players] are all great guys, and the management has treated me really well, even the players — as soon as I came here, I got along with all of them... Personally, I would love to play, but I think it comes down to what the team needs to earn the promotion that they want and they deserve; [I’ll do] whatever best fits the team.”
At the international level, Bindon is eligible for New Zealand and the United States. He has appeared with the latter program, beginning with the U-14 group at the regional level. His most recent experience came in March of 2023 with the U-19 team during a trip to Argentina for friendlies against the host nation and club side Racing Club de Avellaneda. Appearances in both matches could serve as a potential sign of further inclusion during the upcoming U-20 World Cup cycle.
A tall centre-back, his brief time in England has helped to improve his technical abilities and direct play. He describes himself as a “calm defender” who “enjoys having the ball” and is “not afraid to put a good challenge in,” an obvious necessity in the physical lower leagues. His strength in the air is paired with the ability to play incisive passes that split through the opposing defenders, dictating the game from a deeper area of the field.
“He showed a ton of poise and skill under immense pressure,” wrote Marcus Chairez for Chasing a Cup. “Tyler is a tall and lean center-back that has shown the ability to perform well in a high-line in space. Tyler shows a lot of poise, calm and aggressiveness as a center-back, a combination that you really like to see from a defender. Tyler also shows a great ability to pass out of the back with both of his feet with accuracy.”
Bindon’s professional career is off to a fast start, enjoying the first-team minutes that many players wait several years to receive. He has the benefit of time and a solid foundation upon which to develop, although opportunities are meant to be seized in case of never arising again. His current involvement in the national team set-up should put him on the fast track to inclusion during the upcoming U-20 World Cup cycle, another important step on the traditional upward trajectory of a talented prospect.