I remember where I was when I first heard the name Emerson Hyndman. Down at Motspur Park, watching an otherwise unremarkable youth team fixture, my attention was drawn to a slight teenager taking in proceedings by a Fulham official. ‘That’s our new American midfielder,’ he said, and proceeded to tell me how pleased the club were to capture his signature after he’d had trials with a number of European clubs. It’s the sort of name who don’t forget – and Hyndman quickly turned heads with eye-catching performances in the Fulham youth system.
There’s football pedigree in Hyndman’s family. He’s the grandson of Schellas Hyndman, who used to coach FC Dallas, and it’s clear that he loves playing the game. A ferocious trainer, Hyndman’s professionalism impressed those behind the scenes at Fulham, who have seen plenty of promising youngsters fail to develop the attitude necessary to accompany their prodigious talent. At a time when the club have been searching for a creative, cultured midfielder, many have been awaiting Hyndman’s ascension to first-team football for a while – an intelligent footballer with a wide passing range – but Felix Magath’s reboot of his relegated charges meant it has come far quicker than anyone could have expected.
The Texan took his chance when Magath refreshed his squad with a few faces from the youth team squad for the summer tour to Scotland. He starred during the Under 18’s thrilling run to the FA Youth Cup Final and didn’t look out of place during pre-season, impressing on his return to his homeland when a shadow Whites side dismantled DC United. But it was still a surprise when his name was part of a youthful line-up for Fulham’s Championship opener at Ipswich, and Hyndman belied his tender years with accomplished display of real maturity.
It wasn’t the kind of debut that had the Sky pundits purring – there wasn’t a showy pass or a key tackle – but, for me, it was more impressive because of that. Thrown in against a fierce Ipswich midfield, Hyndman was comfortable and efficient, able to recycle the ball without too much fuss and keep Fulham going forward when the game seemed beyond them in the second half. He didn’t freeze or run out of legs but kept things simple and steady, completing 59 of his 66 passes. Magath mentioned that he was ‘surprised in a good way’ by the quality of Hyndman’s debut and, judging by the standard of his performance in another testing defeat by Millwall, the manager might just ink the eighteen year-old in as one of his regular starters.
Even in a side that showed signs of being shaken up by the concession of a sloppy early goal, Hyndman never hid. He was eager to receive the ball and made plenty of intelligent forward runs, often taking it upon himself to drift into advanced areas to support the horribly isolated Hugo Rodallega. There was plenty of efficient passing – Hyndman completed 66 of 73 passes as Fulham utterly dominated possession – and was always looking for a forward ball. His vision and passing make him the perfect foil for Scott Parker in the heart of the midfield, given the Fulham captain’s advancing age – and you get the sense that there’s much more to come from the American.
The lively running of Patrick Roberts might have quickened our pulses over the past couple of weeks, but Hyndman’s rapid rise is a compelling story. He certainly hasn’t looked overawed in taking on two physical sides in Ipswich and Millwall – and it can’t be beyond the realms of possibility that he could force his way into the American Olympic squad for Rio in a couple of years time. You might remember the name, but you won’t forget Emerson Hyndman’s talent in a hurry either.