Soccer has experienced phenomenal growth in the US in recent years with the number of professional clubs growing year over year. Following the inception of many of these clubs has been the development of youth academy systems, providing aspiring youngsters in the US a more traditional soccer pathway to the pros than through the college ranks. One such story is that of Joshua Wynder. Following in his brother Elijah’s footsteps, Wynder earned a professional contract and a subsequent multi-year extension with his hometown club, Louisville City FC. However, Josh Wynder is no ordinary academy success story.
“I think there’s no bigger honor than being able to represent your country, whether it’s whether it’s for camps to be able to put on the crest. There are select few in the country that are able to say that they’ve done that. So I was really happy for him.” Louisville City Head Coach Danny Cruz commented on Wynder’s inclusion on the roster for the most recent US U-19 roster. Despite his young age (he turned 17 shortly after returning from camp) and limited professional experience, he has found his way onto the radar of US Soccer and onto the U-19 roster. For anyone who has seen him in action, it’s hardly a surprise. Wynder’s first professional appearance didn’t occur until last July, with his first start only days later. Although minutes were limited for the then-16-year-old in 2021, a foundation was started for what has been a tremendous 2022 campaign. He has made seven starts to date in regular season USL Championship play on a very competitive Louisville City roster and not once has he looked out of place. Physically, Wynder has the tools needed to succeed; it’s the mental component that he has focused on developing. “I think I’ve just learned to have the right mentality. I think the soccer side was almost there. There’s obviously things I can improve on every day. Every player can. But I think the mental side of it and getting the consistency in training was my biggest growth this year.”
As a converted midfielder, the ability to win individual battles in the air has been one of his training focuses. “Aerial battles I struggled with last year,” Wynder stated, “but I think I’m getting a lot better just reading the ball in the air.” Coach Cruz agreed he has progressed in that area. “I think he’s grown tremendously in that area, and that area may seem like it’s not important, but the way that we want to play and for his own growth and development, it was important that he improved on that, and he certainly has.” Beyond aerial duels, communication has also been an important topic. “Sometimes it’s more difficult when you’re a little bit younger is the vocal side of it constantly communicating with people in front of you,” Coach Cruz commented. “This is an area that I think he can continue to improve, but he’s doing a really good job.” The U-19 staff saw something in him as he was asked to operate in a leadership capacity. Wynder commented that during his time at camp, the staff was “talking about me trying to be a leader just because I have mostly more experience than some of the kids there.” While slightly uncomfortable at first, playing with players his age helped to ease him into it. “I felt more confident and felt like I could be a leader more just because like the age.”
It’s not just been the US U-19’s who have taken notice of Josh Wynder. He has garnered some international interest. Prior to the start of the regular season, Wynder spent some time training in Portugal. “I think I needed to go through that just to get out of my comfort zone,” he stated. As far as play on the pitch goes, he felt he could compete. “They’re definitely pretty good. I feel like I’m close to the level because I was training with their 19s, I think, and then if I would have stayed longer, they said they would have moved me up to their 20s.” As for Wynder’s goals, he stated he wanted to win the USL Championship, start every game he can, and earn another call up in the short term. Long term, both coach and player were coy. “I’m not sure about my future, like with Europe or MLS or whatever it will be, but that will all come with time. I just don’t know what I want right now because I’m young,” Wynder commented. “I think it’s important that we keep him in the moment and going about his business every day the way that he has been. And so far he’s done that,” stated Coach Cruz. “He’s not a kid that allows the outside noise to affect him either negatively or positively. We want him to stay even keel, continue to come to work the way that he has.” However, Coach Cruz confirmed that outside interest has been expressed for the promising youngster.
The best is yet to come for Joshua Wynder. He is a player with a high ceiling and it did not take Coach Cruz long to realize that. “We believe he was a player that had a lot of potential, but we felt that with the culture that we have here and the guys that we have here, that he could blossom into something special. And we’re starting to see that now.” Coach Cruz was full of praise for his budding star player. “He’s a special young man. When he gets on the field, he’s lethal, he is sharp, he’s confident, he’s calm, and I genuinely believe that the sky is the limit for him.” Wynder has been thankful to the support system that has in Louisville. “It’s definitely been very helpful with having all my friends and family here and then on the soccer side of it with the players just took me under the wing and helped me grow every day.” If US Soccer fans did not have a reason to check out the offering of matches from the USL Championship, perhaps checking out Louisville’s future national team player may be worth your while. He is a player to keep a close eye on.
For more on Joshua Wynder, check out an interview I did with him and fellow Louisville City academy graduate, Carlos Moguel. You can also hear about his penalty kick heroics in the 3rd round of the US Open Cup.