It’s a story all-too-familiar to American soccer fans. Young talent emerges. Hype ensues. Youth national team success is had. Pro career stalls and eventually dwindles out. Emerson Hyndman is on step three of that four-step program that has plagued American soccer for the last 20 years.
Doug Roberson of the AJC reported on Thursday that Hyndman could be on his way to Atlanta United soon as the two sides are supposedly discussing a contract.
If the move should come to fruition — there still seems to be some obstacles such as roster spots and possible transfer fees in the way — there is some debate about what type of move this would be. On paper this could be interpreted as an impact move. Emerson Hyndman’s bio says he played in a Premier League match for Bournemouth last season. Whoa! The Five Stripes have gone and gotten an American superstar.
Not so fast.
No disrespect intended to Hyndman, but he’s very much a reclamation project for any MLS team at this point in his career. After two decent loan spells in the Scottish Premiership with Hibs and Rangers in between rotting away in the Bournemouth reserves, his time in Europe seems to be coming to an end and probably way later than it should have.
The unfortunate truth is that most Americans don’t make it back from European disappointment. Most kickabout on loan spells and come back to MLS to waste away on the bench or end up with the New England Revolution.
There’s still hope for Hyndman, however. Thankfully for him he’s just 23 years old with a lot of time to get back on track. Atlanta United is the perfect situation for him, it would seem. If the move happens, he wouldn’t be looked at as a huge signing. There would be minimal pressure on him to succeed immediately. He’s not breaking into Atlanta’s first-choice lineup right away but would certainly get minutes. The team needs depth for the ridiculously grueling ride that has become the MLS schedule. Hyndman needs a place to prove himself. It’s a perfect match.
A quick synopsis of the type of player Atlanta United would be getting if the move comes off. Hyndman is a hybrid midfielder. Not exactly a box-to-box player and not really a pure No. 10. He’s very much something in between. He’s creative. A very technically gifted player. He has a good engine. He’s not the greatest defensively. He can get forward and score some pretty good goals.
There’s absolutely no doubt that Hyndman has the talent to be a very good player. He proved that at a U-20 World Cup, with Fulham in the Championship and on loan in Scotland. But the harsh reality is that it takes more than talent to succeed at a high level in this sport. Many talented American players have seen their careers stall. Hopefully this possible move is exactly what he needs to prevent that from happening. And if it is, Atlanta United will in turn benefit greatly in the short and possibly long term.