By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Apr 13, 2023) US Soccer Players – USMNT player Lynden Gooch recently passed the 200 league appearances mark with Sunderland, the club he joined as a youth player. Gooch’s league appearances span the top three divisions of English football. He’s been a fixture at the club during stints in the Premier League, the Championship, and League One.
During a period of immense turmoil at a proud club, Gooch remained a consistent presence, playing multiple positions and helping to push Sunderland back into contention for a return to the Premier League. His recent conversion to the back line came out of necessity but has benefited both the club and the player.
Heading into the stretch run of the English Championship season, Sunderland is four points behind Blackburn for the final promotion playoff spot. For a club that spent four seasons in League One and earned promotion to the Championship via the playoffs last year, simply being in the hunt is an achievement. So is playing over 200 league games for any club in the modern era, with players much freer to change teams and the market for players spanning continents. It’s a significant exception to the current rule. For anyone to win the trust of a club, a string of coaches, and fans, is an achievement.
Gooch follows in the footsteps of a handful of American players who broke the 200 league appearance barrier with English clubs. The list may grow in the future, but the set of circumstances needed for a player to reach the milestone is uncommon in the third decade of the 21st century making it a select group.
Goalkeepers, one of America’s greatest exports over the last 30 years, delivered three US internationals who found the success and stability to collect over league 200 appearances for a single club in the first 20 years of the century.
The first was Brad Friedel at Blackburn Rovers. Friedel joined Blackburn after a stint at Liverpool and helped the club return to the Premier League via automatic promotion in 2000-01. He played seven more seasons with Blackburn, hitting the 200 appearances mark during the 2004-05 season and leaving the club with 288 league games played.
Marcus Hahnemann started his career at Reading while that club was playing in the third tier of English soccer. He made his 200th league appearance five seasons later with the club in the Premier League, eventually making 276 league appearances for Reading.
Tim Howard set the high mark for league appearances by an American in English soccer during his time at Everton. Howard established himself as an institution at the Merseyside club, playing both as the first-choice goalkeeper for a Premier League club and the USMNT for over a decade, Howard appeared in 354 league games at Everton, a run that included a streak of 210 consecutive Premier League starts.
As for field players, Tim Ream continues to add to his 259 league games played for Fulham since joining that club for the 2015-16 Championship season. That run includes playing in 44 of 46 games in the Championship in 2017-18 and 2019-20 and all 46 in 2021-22, with Fulham winning promotion in each of those seasons. Staying with Fulham, Clint Dempsey also deserves a mention for playing in 184 Premier League games for for the club that increases to 225 for all competitions.
While the focus is on English soccer, it’s another field player with the record for most appearances with a single club by an American. That name is no surprise, with now LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo gracing the field for Hannover 96 in the 2.Bundesliga and Bundesliga 415 times between 1999 and 2014. Almost from the moment of his arrival until his retirement at 35, Cherundolo was a rock at right back for Hannover. He helped the club win promotion to the top division four years after he joined and proceeded to man his place in the lineup in the top division for more than a decade following.
There’s something special about players who remain with a single club longer than the norm. Long gone are the days when a player might suit up week after week for a decade or more for the same team, thereby racking up hundreds of appearances in the club colors.
That’s one of the reasons American players who make their way overseas and find a long-term home in a transitory business stand out. Longevity conveys a certain sense of authority and respect. Gooch is the latest, following in the footsteps of others who made themselves central figures in the story of one team over multiple seasons.
Jason Davis is the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM.
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Photo by Ben Roberts – News Images via ZUMA Press Wire – ISIPhotos.com