As he works hard in training every day to impress his club manager, Emerson Hyndman is also hopeful of catching another coach’s eye.
UPDATE: Hyndman made his first start for Bournemouth, playing 55 minutes in its 3-0 loss at Millwall in the third round of FA Cup on Saturday.
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe is the former, and, of course, the latter is Bruce Arena, named in November as successor to Jurgen Klinsmann, who granted the former U.S. U-20 captain his first senior cap in September 2014 for a post-World Cup friendly against Czech Republic.
“I was thrilled, particularly when he put me on during a rough game in Prague,” Hyndman told The Guardian. “I got 25 minutes or so, and I still savor that feeling.”
At the time, he was just 18 and had played only a handful of first-team games for Fulham in the League Championship after progressing through the club’s academy. Now he’s 20 -- turns 21 in April -- and so far hasn’t been able to crack the Howe’s lineup as the club navigates its second Premier League campaign after scraping its way into 16th place last spring.
At about the same time, with his Fulham contract about to expire, Hyndman went shopping. Purported interest from a few major clubs did not sway him though his choice of the Cherries did come as a bit of a surprise. “There were a few clubs in the mix and stuff, but the manager here really explained what he wanted to do, both with Bournemouth and with me,” Hyndman said. “He’s developed players from the lower leagues to the Premier League, which is a huge achievement, so I knew he was well respected for that. He has an agenda and he’s looking forward to developing players right now, and I want to be a part of that.”
So far his 18 appearances for Fulham in the Championship (24 in all competitions) and a single goal is all he has to show for his five years in England. Bournemouth is solidly in the middle of the Premier League standings and Howe has elected not to use him in league play, and his two substitute appearances in the EFL Cup occurred in the final minutes, though he did play all 30 minutes of extra time in a 3-2 loss to Preston North End Sept. 20.
Hyndman made his choice after a meeting with Howe that was short, but convincing enough. “It was just a casual meeting and it was actually very brief. There was nothing too detailed -- just his plans for me and for the team,” Hyndman told the Guardian. “You can obviously tell he’s an intelligent guy and he’s really passionate about working with players and getting to know them. He said he knows what I can and can’t do, and what I need to do to get better. To hear a coach say that, shows that he really cares about what he’s doing, and about the players as well.”
The U.S. changeover to Arena and his declaration that he wants better passing from his midfielders would seem an idea platform for the vision and skills of Hyndman, who captained the U.S. U-20s and orchestrated much of the attack at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in May 2015. He’s also heartened by the fact that Arena, while confirming his belief that several MLS players didn’t get enough of a look from Klinsmann, will not exclude the candidates playing in Europe. The all-MLS squad summoned for the annual January camp that convenes next week isn’t any sort of template for the future.
Hyndman is an extreme longshot to be summoned by Arena in the first half of the year, but there is a Gold Cup on the horizon. He’s still playing catchup at Bournemouth after an ankle injury forced him to miss a big chunk of preseason training, and along with polishing his touch and instincts he’s working in the gym to build up his 5-foot-6, 140-pound frame and add other parts to his game.
There are several levels Hyndman is trying to attain. He needs playing time to get into Arena’s pool of players, and add to the second cap he earned last May in a friendly against Puerto Rico that preceded the Copa America Centenario. The central midfield slots are crowded, with Sacha Kljestan and Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen and hopeful of breaking through after being mostly shunned by Klinsmann.
“We’ve seen guys like Lynden Gooch have good success this season [at Sunderland] by playing a bit and he’s fully deserved to go on from there,” Hyndman told the Guardian. “I hope to get a break pretty soon, and obviously I want to be part of this US team as quickly as possible. I don’t know Bruce personally, although I hope to get to know him pretty soon!”