Emerson Hyndman may have just made his Fulham debut a few weeks ago, but he was no unknown at the club. He has been one of the Cottagers' most highly touted youngsters for years and was a sign of the good things to come as they were relegated from the Premier League.
Hyndman's status with the United States hasn't been too different either. He has never been capped by the senior team, but every close observer of the program was well aware of him. Sure, he was just a teenager, but with great talent and knocking on the door of Fulham's senior team, it was only a matter of time before he got his chance with the U.S. at the senior level.
Now he's getting to do just that. The 18-year-old was named to the U.S. roster for their friendly against the Czech Republic and has a chance to step into the Americans' midfield. Those years of waiting may finally be over.
What do you need to know about him?
Hyndman, that sounds familiar?
Emerson is the grandson of Schellas Hyndman, one of the best coaches in NCAA history and former manager of FC Dallas. Not a bad upbringing for a future pro.
Why is everyone so excited about him?
Hyndman had the bloodlines and, pretty early on, it was clear that he had the skill too. He was touted as the best player at pretty much every youth level, then he went to Fulham and was quickly anointed as one of their best young players. It's one thing to be good in the old, antiquated American youth club system, but to go into a Premier League academy and shine there? That was worth taking note of, because few, if any, Americans ever do that.
Has he lived up to the hype?
Yes, and then some. Fulham, while they were relegated last season, also showed that they had one of the league's better academies. The youth teams dominated tournaments and players continued to garner youth international call-ups. Through it all, Hyndman continued to be excellent, becoming one of the stars on the Cottagers' U-18 team that went to the FA Youth Cup final. He even scored a goal in the first leg of the final. Everyone who watched Hyndman had nothing but marvelous things to say about him, complimenting his smarts, technique and ability to control tempo.
So why did he just make his Fulham debut?
17-year-old's don't often play in the Premier League, but Hyndman did make his Fulham debut last month at the tender age of 18. That's pretty damn good.
Has he been good?
Hyndman has been good by any measure in the early part of the Championship season and spectacular when accounting for his age and inexperience. Nobody would call Hyndman a flashy player, but he's shown himself to be mature and tidy for Fulham. He puts himself in good positions, supports his teammates, moves the ball quickly and doesn't give the ball away. For a midfielder on a team that is trying to keep the ball and try to dictate the match, that is excellent, and remarkable for an 18-year-old.
But Fulham have been terrible?
They have just one point from five matches in the league so yes, but it hasn't been because Hyndman has been bad.
Will he play against the Czech Republic?
We have no idea. Klinsmann called in a big team for the match, mainly so a lot of players would get to train, which means several players will not play on Wednesday. Whether Hyndman will be one of those is unclear.
How good can Hyndman be?
He's well ahead of the curve for an 18-year-old and has the type of polish that we rarely see from American players. He will never be the most flashy player, but that's fine. He can be central to a team and help a midfield take over a match. To say that is important would be a massive understatement.
What does he have to improve on?
Most of what Hyndman needs to improve will come with experience and time. He has already shown he can hack it in the Championship, which is impressive, but he needs to take some more risks, something that will come when he is a little more comfortable. More than anything, Hyndman needs to put on muscle because he is still on the scrawny side.
So I should get to know this kid?
Definitely. There may not be a young American with a brighter future. And present.