Miami, Florida – Only the slightest trace of an English accent could be detected as Emerson Hyndman sat down to talk with GotSoccer Friday afternoon on a perfect day at the U.S. Men’s National Team’s plush Miami hotel. The playmaking midfielder, who left home as a 15-year-old to join Fulham’s youth set up in London, was fresh from a hard earned beach break with his teammates on this “transitional” U.S. roster as he settled in.
But Hyndman didn’t fly all the way from London to Florida to bask in the sun, no this trip was strictly business for the 20-year-old and the first order of business was to impress. “Anytime I get the chance to show Jurgen and his staff what I can do is a good opportunity,” is how Hyndman put it to GotSoccer.
Left off of the provisional U.S. MNT roster for the COPA America Centenario, Hyndman was not eligible for the final 23 man group that would be announced less than 24 hours after our Florida chat. “Obviously, I was a little disappointed,” Hyndman said of missing out, “but it is something I have to live with.” “It’s a big tournament,” Hyndman continued, “it’s COPA America, something every player wants to be a part of.”
And while Hyndman won’t be involved in the expanded South American championships next month, he did go on to earn his second full U.S. cap Sunday afternoon against Puerto Rico when the U.S. topped their underdog hosts by a 3-1 score without ever managing to quite click. Although scrappy, the opposition wasn’t great, still Hyndman likely helped his cause, giving an assured performance in playing the final 45 minutes.
Missing out on the COPA does not mean that Hyndman is facing a low-key summer, in fact, the soon to be free agent is facing the most important decision of his young career. With his Fulham deal set to expire Hyndman said of finding a new club, “it’s a hard decision to make because it’s a big one.”
Raising the ante for the former U.S. U20 World Cup captain is his age. “Yeah, it is,” Hyndman said when asked if this is a particularly important time in his career. “I’m 20 years old now, I’m not 18 anymore,” Hyndman told GotSoccer, adding with a quiet laugh, “I’m moving on into big boy years.”
This past season at Fulham has certainly exposed Hyndman to some grown-up realities. Injuries for one. A broken collarbone -“the shoulder is perfect” – limited his appearances but so too did Hyndman’s decision to announce that he would be leaving Fulham following the 2015-16 season.
Does he think those comments hurt his chances at the Cottage? “Possibly,” Hyndman conceded. “When I look back on when I said that, I was disappointed in my playing time; looking back it was something I shouldn’t have said but I was young,” then catching himself the 20-year- old corrected, “I was younger at the time, so I’ve learned from that.”
With Fulham fighting to avoid relegation from the Championship to League 1, manager Slovan Jokanovic told the local media that Hyndman wasn’t up to the relegation battle. It seemed an unnecessary slap at the up and comer, especially given that the manager also said that Hyndman “may have played only 11 games for Fulham but I expect he’s going to play 500 more over the next 17 years.”
“He’s going to be an important player for us,” he added.
As he sat overlooking Miami Beach on Friday, Hyndman still seemed mystified by Jokanovic’s words. “He (Jokanovic) always told me, he knew I was a hard worker and I was a good player. He thought it would be hard for me to adapt to the championship,” which Hyndman pointed out, “I’d already played in for a year and a half.”
Hyndman “knew where he (Jokanovic) was coming from but at the same time, “I knew that I could make an impact if I got the chance.” The chance came on Hyndman’s 20th birthday and it was Hyndman who was handing out the presents, his stoppage time winner over Cardiff going a long way toward keeping Fulham in the Championship.
Hyndman’s performance that day elicited this extraordinary mea culpa from his coach after the Cardiff match, “He’s probably one of the more talented players. I am little bit disappointed with myself that I haven’t found more minutes for him this season.”
Hyndman admitted to GotSoccer that he felt some vindication on hearing those comments. “It was nice to hear him say those things, that I could have played him more.” Hyndman doesn’t come off as bitter adding, “I knew what he did think of me and that is all that matters to me.”
That late in the year rapprochement may have come too late for Fulham to retain Hyndman, although he refused to rule out a return to the Thames side club on Friday. “I’m looking at everything,” Hyndman said. “I’m taking everything into account, including Fulham, so I’m looking at other things as well.”
Since his move to England as a teenager, Hyndman has been a regular on the transfer rumor mill, and with that expiring contract, speculation has intensified around the Dallas native. Manchester United has been prominently mentioned for some time, and recently Celtic, Borussia Dortmund, and AC Milan have been mooted.
Not surprisingly, Hyndman wouldn’t offer specifics, “like I said, I’m looking around. I’m looking at England, I’m looking at different places in Europe, I’m just looking around.” As Hyndman weighs his next move GotSoccer wondered if his head would be turned by some of the big name clubs said to be in the running, or would potential playing time be the determining factor as he decides on his next club?
“Yeah, that’s another big thing,” Hyndman answered thoughtfully. “There’s different sorts of clubs, different places, different leagues, there are different paths you can take. You take a bigger club and possibly not play as much, maybe go on loan or you can settle for a good solid club, maybe not fighting for the same things but you’ll get more chances along the way.”
Hyndman admits that the process is difficult. “I feel like I need to make the best decision for me, personally and that’s going to take a little bit of time.” “I’ll take this time, discuss it with my family, people around me that really help me make these decisions and we’ll see.”
Does Jurgen Klinsmann have a role? “Oh, of course,” Hyndman told GotSoccer in Miami. “He said if you need any help, I’m the national team coach, so I’m here to help in any way I can, so obviously if it comes down to that, I’ll be sure to ask him.”
So, COPA or not, this offseason is a big one for the young midfielder. Should he stay at Fulham or move on? Is a big club the right fit or should Hyndman think small, and what league to play in, what country to live in? These are no small questions for the young professional.
Hyndman seems very unlikely to play 500 more games for Fulham like Jokanovic mentioned. Beyond that, Hyndman could only say, “I’m sure it will be decided very soon,” telling GotSoccer, “I’d say within the next month or so it should be all finished.”
And then it is on to the “big boy years,” for Emerson Hyndman.