PROSPECT | Chris Richards

Football in the USA is ever-growing, the Bundesliga is the greatest evidence for this with Giovanni Reyna, Matthew Hoppe, Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie being USMNT stars who have made their names in the Bundesliga. Next up on the conveyer belt of American talents passing through Germany is Chris Richards. The 6ft 2’ defender has re-joined Hoffenheim for a second loan spell as he looks to build on his number of senior appearances and aim to impress his parent club, Bayern Munich.

Chris Richards’ career so far

Hailing from Alabama, Richards began his career in Texas, eventually joining the youth set up of MLS side FC Dallas, aged 17. A testament to Richards’ clear ability is that having never made a first team appearance for Dallas and just one month after signing his first homegrown player contract, he was offered a trial with Bayern Munich who were had a pre-season in the US that summer.

Richards’ trial was successful and he joined Bayern Munich II on loan with the deal later being made permanent. The American was ever present with Bayern’s second team playing 30 games in Germany’s third tier while also adding four goals to his name. In this time, Richards also made his first team debut in Bayern Munich’s penultimate league game of the season, a 3-1 win against Freiburg. Last season Richards played seven times in the first team and even recorded an assist.

To get regular playing time, Richards joined Hoffenheim and featured 12 times in all competitions as Hoffenheim ended the season in 11th. The Sinsheim club were shaky at the back last season, but Richards instantly came in and looked one of the most assured figures in defence despite only being 20.  Having turned 21 this summer, Richards agreed to re-join Hoffenheim on deadline day as he looks to get a full season as a starter under his belt.

How Impressive was Richards last season?

The USMNT are experiencing a wave of talented young players coming through the ranks for one of the first times ever, yet many of these exciting players are forwards or midfielders. This is why Richards’ development is important as he is the most outstanding American central defender at the moment and could be ever-present at the back for America in major international tournaments.

Richards made 14 Bundesliga appearances last season so it’s harder to quantify his strengths since playing first team football in Germany as the sample size for performance data is small, however it is still clear where most of his strengths lie. Richards is a highly athletic centre back who is proactive and aggressive in his defending and has good decision making of when to step out and when to drop off, for a player of his age and with limited elite experience.

As you would expect from a player who is contracted to Bayern, Richards is assured on the ball and not afraid to attempt to break the lines, evident via the fact he has two Bundesliga assists to his name already from limited appearances and playing as a central defender. Richards had a pass success rate of 88% last season which is solid for a player of his age and even more promising is the fact that almost 20% of his attempted passes where progressive passes.

Richards won around 54% of his tackles last season and is still developing physically and will improve as he gains confidence and plays more minutes. This percentage is likely to increase this season as he plays more and if Hoffenheim can tighten up all together defensively.

Hoffenheim have established Bundesliga quality players in midfield and have desirable forwards with Munas Dabbur and Andrej Kramarić however, they didn’t overhaul defensively and bring much improvement in, only David Raum was brought in from Greuther Fürth to aid the defence.

At a young age the pressure is on for Richards to be a real presence and calm figure for Hoffenheim this season – with minimal experience with Bayern Munich under his belt and having received some much need starts towards the end of last season, playing for Hoffenheim should be a challenge that excites Richards. If all goes well, he may cement himself in Julian Nagelsmann’s future plans and prove he is worthy of a role greater than being a squad player.

How high is Richards’ ceiling and does he have a future at Bayern Munich?

Hoffenheim kept six clean sheets following Richards’ arrival. There is a place up for grabs in the USMNT when it comes to having an outstanding centre back, but should Richards excel this season he could surely make that spot his for years to come.

At Bayern Munich, Richards may be slipping under the radar in a positive sense. Youngsters such as Alphonso Davies and Jamal Musiala have had big breakthroughs in to the first team even when competition against them has come from world class players. Beyond Dayot Upamecano and Niklas Süle, Bayern have a lack of cover when it comes to physical defenders who are naturally central defenders. Although he can play on the right, Richards fits the bill for covering this role standing at 6’2 and having natural athleticism and pace on his side, as well as having the passing ability required to play at a club with such prestige as Bayern.

It is easy to get excited about the likes of Gio Reyna and Matthew Hoppe amongst other exciting attackers, however USMNT fans and Bayern supporters should be keeping a keen eye on Richards over at Hoffenheim. Still only 21 and having been given limited opportunities in the past, this is the American’s chance to run away with the opportunity at being a starter in Europe where he can prove he has an obvious future with one of Europe’s most elite clubs for years to come.

Joe Langlands

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