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Notable Players in the EFL Championship

Aug 5, 2022

Though The Premier League is still over a week away from starting a new season, England’s second-division EFL Championship, commence this weekend.

From a pair of strikers looking to climb back into the national team to two goalkeepers with very different objectives to make the World Cup roster. 

Here are some U.S.-eligible players currently in the Championship.

Duane Holmes, Huddersfield

Holmes has been mentioned as a potential member of the USMNT pool for so long that it is hard to believe he is still only 27 years old. He was a major part of Huddersfield’s promotion push, having logged 2,263 minutes before coming off the bench in the 1-0 final defeat at Wembley.

Known for dependable if unspectacular attacking play, Holmes could factor for time on the wing or in central midfield. After finishing third with a six-point gap between them and automatic promotion, expectations for Huddersfield will be high despite Schofield’s novice standing. Capped twice in 2019, it seems unlikely that Holmes will factor to crash a crowded stable of wide midfielders to make the World Cup roster. Even still, Holmes is a fun watch when Huddersfield are broadcast Stateside, and another strong season in the Championship could help him merit further international consideration, even after the tournament in Qatar.

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland

Gooch has been with the Black Cats for a decade now. 

The Santa Cruz native joined Sunderland’s academy ranks in 2012, made his Premier League debut against Manchester City in 2016 and has amassed 180 league appearances to date as the club has bounced between divisions. Now back in the Championship, Gooch has cemented his place in the side after previously being on the periphery before the club’s double relegation, with his current standing resulting in a new contract upon the team’s promotion.

With over 11,000 League One minutes under his belt, the 26-year-old Gooch will relish a chance to return to a higher level. He last played in the Championship in 2017-18 as Sunderland slid from England’s top flight to its third division over the course of just three seasons. He has alternated between being a goalscorer (11 in 2019-20) and creator (15 assists across the past two seasons) at the Stadium of Light. While he has not added to his four USMNT caps since 2018, he is among the most intriguing Americans abroad, as Sunderland inches closer to England’s limelight.

Zack Steffen, Middlesbrough

The U.S. entered World Cup qualification expecting Steffen to become the latest in a proud lineage of goalkeepers for the program. Of course, you know what happened next: Steffen battled injury and Matt Turner rose to become a rotational part of the qualifying effort. 

An infamous gaffe in the FA Cup semi final against Liverpool seemed to be the final straw for Manchester City, as the club ended Steffen’s two-year run as their primary backup to Ederson by bringing in Stefan Ortega.

While Steffen may need to swallow his pride a bit as he drops a division, it could be a blessing for his international prospects. The occasional cup start did little to keep him fresh, and some miscues in his World Cup qualifying appearances showed evidence of a goalkeeper working to shake some rust. While Turner will remain with Arsenal as backup to Aaron Ramsdale, Steffen can get a weekly runout with a Middlesbrough side that enters the season as a trendy pick to win the Championship. Chris Wilder should set the team up to keep Steffen playing with the ball at his feet, after the goalkeeper position was seen as the main area needing an upgrade this summer. Altogether, this move has the potential to both return the club to the Premier League and give Steffen’s career a shot in the arm.

Daryl Dike, West Brom

USMNT-eligible outfield players have the potential to leap further up Gregg Berhalter’s depth chart than Dike. The 22-year-old was limited to just two appearances after making a January move away from Orlando City, with a pair of hamstring injuries keeping him off the pitch as the Baggies finished a disappointing 2021-22 campaign. 

He is back to full fitness, has forged a relationship with manager Steve Bruce and has found his scoring form during the preseason. His goal in their final summer friendly could help him overcome Karlan Grant to start up top. 

Fending off challenges from Grant and Kenneth Zohore will not be Dike’s only task in the coming months. The U.S. qualified for the World Cup in spite of its strikers, who left multiple goals on the table throughout the final stage of qualifying. If Dike can find a vein of consistent scoring form, he could challenge to not just make Berhalter’s roster, but to potentially lead the line in Qatar.

Ethan Horvath, Luton

Horvath’s first season at Nottingham Forest did not quite go as planned. He was steady when on the pitch (keeping three clean sheets in six starts), but largely served as Brice Samba’s backup on the club’s return to the top flight for the first time since the late 1900s. Even though Samba moved to Lens, Forest’s loan move for Dean Henderson once again consigned the U.S.international to watching from the sidelines.

Horvath returns to the Championship with one of last year’s pleasant surprises. That was not due to consistent goalkeeping six different players staffed the net for Luton as the club finished sixth before falling to Huddersfield in the promotion playoffs. 

While he is not the only U.S. goalkeeper in the division this year, he arguably carries higher stakes as he competes with Sean Johnson and Gabriel Slonina to round out Berhalter’s World Cup goalkeeping trio behind Matt Turner and Zack Steffen.

For the time being, the EFL Championship league has hosted many notable players eligible for the United States men’s national team over the past decade, and will once again be home to a handful of fascinating American exports this season.

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