BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The days of Dempsey and McBride are over at Craven Cottage, but Emerson Hyndman is aiming to continue the success of Americans at Fulham where he is rising quickly through the youth ranks.
Hyndman, 17, has been within the Fulham organization since 2011 when he joined the Premier League club's academy and ever since he has continued to show steady progress. In April he signed his first professional contract with Fulham and just three months later in July he signed a second extension which will keep him at the London club through 2016.
"I'm very excited," Hyndman told YA "I'm really happy to be at this club and I've had a great time while I've been here. To extend that time is great for me and I'm really excited for the next few seasons."
Hyndman has long since been one of the more promising young American players. He has played with U.S youth national teams at the U-15 and U-17 levels although he was not part of the 2013 U-17 team in March which failed to qualify for the World Cup.
It is expected that Hyndman will be part of the US U-20 team when it begins its new cycle building for the 2015 World Cup in New Zealand. He watched the most recently U-20 World Cup as the Americans failed to advance out of a group which included Spain, France, and Ghana. He is hoping to be part of a new U-20 team that will be more successful at top levels of international youth soccer.
"Whenever I get called up to the national team, it's a privilege," Hyndman said. "I always love representing the United States. If they ever want me to go with them for qualification or whatever it maybe, it's always an exciting thing. Whenever they call me up, I try to make myself available."
For now, however, his priority has been with Fulham where he has helped the club to win two consecutive U-18 Premier League titles. With his height listed at 5'7", he is a top prospect at Fulham and the club's website describes him as "one of the most technically gifted players in the Academy." This year it is possible for him to make the move the U-21 level which is the second highest team in the organization. While most American players do no have the opportunity to make the move to Europe at such an early age, Hyndman was able to make the move to England before his 18th birthday thanks to his dual citizenship with Portugal through his family's ancestry (including through his grandfather and FC Dallas Head coach Schellas Hyndman).
Many Americans have made the move to Europe during their teenage years but few have been successful. While the play on the field can be difficult, most of the struggles encountered by many of the young Americans are off the field. Homesickness and culture shock are just two of the most common reasons for failure.
Hyndman, however, has not suffered from these typical problems during two years abroad and has remained entirely focused on his goal of becoming a professional player.
"Leaving all my friends and family was difficult at first but I've gotten used to it real quick," Hyndman explained. "The club and everyone in it were very inviting so I seemed to fit right into it. I had to change my entire school system. I was able to enjoy my time instead of worrying about getting home all the time. It kind of took care of itself."
As for homesickness, Fulham has helped Hyndman and other young foreign players with host families and programs setup within the club to allow teenagers to deal with the difficult transition off the field. Hyndman's dedication of breaking into the team is so strong, however, he has not had much trouble.
"Straight when I came in, I could tell that I really enjoyed it," Hyndman added. "All the trainings, anyone I talked to would help me through anything I had trouble with. Mainly for football reasons, I came straight in, I understood everything they were trying to do. I never really even thought of moving back. It's all been great and I haven even thought of homesickness at all. My parents come to visit from time to time but mainly it's me and one of the host families that Fulham gives me. It's all pretty good."
When Hyndmann arrived at Fulham in 2011, he was an attacking playmaker thriving in the traditional "number 10" role. In recent years, the coaching staff at the club's academy has moved him back into the "number eight" position where he plays as a box to box midfielder.
The positional change has been a revelation for Hyndman and the Fulham staff and its one which he believes will be the best for his future.
"I'm on both sides of the ball now and I really love it, actually," Hyndman said. "I get a lot more touches on the ball and I've grown into it. I've found success there and I think it's a position that will take me somewhere."
As Hyndman continues to climb through the ranks at Fulham, it serves as a reminder of the rich history Americans have had with the club. From 2004-2012, Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, and Kasey Keller all featured for Fulham with American fans sometimes referring to the club as Fulhamerica. In 2009 the pub inside Craven Cottage was permanently renamed "McBride's" in honor of Brian McBride who is still one of the team's most popular players of all-time.
Hyndman insists that he proudly embraces the legacy left by the Americans at Fulham and it serves as motivation and inspiration for him to continue to work towards the first team.
"It's always cool to have players to look up to and who have been in the same situation as you," Hyndman said of the club's American history. "Knowing that they've been able to come to Fulham and reach the standard you've been trying to achieve is a big thing for me. People like Bocanegra and Dempsey are people I aspire to be like. It's cool to look up to them but at the same to know that you're at the same club."