By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Dec 7, 2022) US Soccer Players – England’s second division resumed play last weekend with a single game and will play a full schedule of matches between Saturday and Monday while the World Cup’s latter rounds unfold. The USMNT is well represented in the Championship, with eight players at seven different clubs calling the competition home.
The Championship is a fiercely competitive league. With promotion to the bright lights of the Premier League on the line and rabid fan bases demanding both winning and entertaining soccer, results are hardly predictable week-to-week.
Lynden Gooch and Sunderland got a head start on a return to play at The Stadium of Light last Saturday. The Black Cats triumphed 3-0 over Millwall, with Gooch going the full 90 minutes at right back. Gooch moved back in the formation to his current defensive role just this season after several years of featuring in a more advanced winger position.
Gooch’s 15 appearances so far in the 2022-23 season increased his total games played for Sunderland to 228, an incredible record of longevity that reflects his consistent level of performance in England. Versatility won him a chance to be part of Sunderland’s return to the second division for 2022-23.
Gooch is a central figure in Sunderland’s long effort to get back to the Premier League for the first time since 2017 when he was a 20-year-old in his second year in England. He played more than 2,900 minutes in the club’s promotion season last year, a success that ended four years in League One for Sunderland. Sunderland’s win over Millwall on Saturday puts the club in a respectable 10th-place through 21 matches.
Josh Sargent and Norwich are battling to push the East Anglian club back into the Premier League after just one year in the Championship. The Canaries entered the World Cup break in 5th-place, good enough to qualify for the promotion playoffs if the season ended today but short of the club’s ultimate ambitions of automatic promotion. In the ten years before this season, Norwich spent five seasons in the Premier League and five in the Championship.
Whether Sargent will be on the field for Norwich when the quest to go up resumes Saturday away to Swansea is unclear. The American forward suffered an ankle injury against Iran in the USMNT’s final group-stage match in Qatar and was unable to dress for the knockout game against the Netherlands.
Sargent started the Championship campaign in excellent form, contributing nine goals and two assists for Norwich in 20 appearances before leaving for the World Cup. Those nine goals lead Norwich in scoring and tie Sargent for the most goals in the Championship this season with five other players.
Luton Town is tied with Sunderland on points and sits in 11th position as games resume. World Cup goalkeeper Ethan Horvath is on loan to Luton from Nottingham Forest and will return to the club ready to step back into the starting lineup. Luton will travel to Middlesbrough on Saturday. Horvath started 20 of Luton’s 21 matches ahead of the World Cup and kept eight clean sheets.
The match between Luton and 15th-place Middlesbrough should feature an American goalkeeper against an American goalkeeper, with a chance for an American attacker to play a role in the outcome. Zack Steffen is playing his soccer on loan from Manchester City at Middlesbrough for the 2022-23 season, with 17 games before the World Cup break. Matthew Hoppe made appearances off the bench in two consecutive matches ahead of the World Cup and looks ready to take on a bigger role with Middlesbrough.
A thigh injury in August limited striker Daryl Dike’s contributions to West Bromwich Albion’s season. He made a substitute appearance in the club’s final game ahead of the break and is now healthy as the Championship restarts. His return is a massive boost to a team with eyes on climbing the table. West Brom won three straight before the World Cup and will try to make it four for four against Gooch and Sunderland on Monday. Despite sitting in 21st position, West Brom is only eight points out of 6th-place.
American midfielder Duane Holmes and Huddersfield Town hope the layoff gives them a chance at a fresh start. Huddersfield sits at the bottom of the standings after 20 games and will face 2nd-place Sheffield United on Saturday at Bramall Lane. Holmes appeared in all 20 of the club’s games this season and started 13 times, chipping in two assists.
Matthew Olosunde’s Preston North End sits in the logjam just outside of the Championship playoff places, in 9th-place tied on points with the four teams ahead of them. They play 3rd-place Blackburn on Saturday, a team they trail by five points.
Jason Davis is the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM.
More From Jason Davis:
- Lagerwey in Atlanta, Wood to New England, and Nancy with Columbus
- Previewing the Netherlands after an interesting group A
- Defense, balance, and limited changes helped England and the USMNT advance from group B
- What the USMNT can use from two group B goals
Photo by David Greaves – News Images via ZUMA Press Wire – ISIPhotos.com