Bayern Munich already have one North American soccer superstar in their ranks in Alphonso Davies - Chris Richards is looking like the the next to break through. bundesliga.com profiles the up-and-coming US defender...
Club: Bayern Munich
Country: USA (U23, two caps)
Richards, alongside FC Dallas colleague Thomas Roberts, spent 10 days on trial at Bayern in May 2018 as part of an academy agreement between the two clubs. The centre-back, who stands at 6’2”, impressed the coaches at the Säbener Strasse sufficiently to be handed a one-year loan deal at the start of July, and less than two weeks later he was thrust into Bayern’s first team, playing the final half-hour of the German champions’ 3-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain at the age of 18 years, three months and 24 days. Impressive performances against Juventus and Manchester City followed, and the future was looking so bright, his loan was made permanent in January 2019.
After making 29 appearances for the Bayern U19s, Richards was bumped up to the reserve team in summer 2019 following their promotion to Germany's 3. Liga. He was a regular in the side that won the the Third Division title, scoring four goals and recording six clean sheets in his 30 appearances. The 20-year-old earned a spot in the senior squad for the title-clinching win over Werder Bremen, and made his Bundesliga debut as an 84th-minute substitute in the record champions' ensuing victory against Freiburg on the penultimate weekend of the 2019/20 campaign. Further substitute appearances against Schalke in the league and Borussia Dortmund in the Supercup preceded his first Bundesliga start in Bayern's 2020/21 Matchday 3 meeting with Hertha Berlin.
Watch: Richards on his Bayern dream
Richards is also making all the right noises on the international scene. Eye-catching displays for the U20s - most notably during his country's run to the quarter-finals of the 2019 FIFA U20 World Cup - have been rewarded with call-ups to the U23 US squad. USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter is already keeping tabs. "Of course I'm keeping an eye on him; Chris is one of our central defenders of the future," he told SportBild ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.
Plays a bit like: Jerome Boateng
A self-confessed fan of his now Bayern stablemate Jerome Boateng, Richards does share a few similar traits with the six-time Bundesliga champion. Both are quick given their formidable frames, while Richards’ reading of the game has impressed. He may not have the heat-seeking long-ball accuracy that Boateng boasts, but early signs are that Richards is on the right track. Much like Boateng in his early days, the American can operate with equal efficiency at right- and centre back.
Did you know?
Bayern were better with Richards in their team than without him in summer 2018. Niko Kovac’s side were drawing 1-1 with PSG when the youngster replaced Javi Martinez but went on to win 3-1. The Bavarians may have been beaten 2-0 by Juventus, meanwhile, but they kept a clean sheet in the second half with Richards on. City scored three in Richards’ only 90 minutes to date, but the record is clear:
With Richards: 3 goals conceded, 4 scored
Without: 6 conceded, 3 scored
What they're saying
"Chris has very good qualities - he is strong and knows how to jump for the ball. He absolutely deserves his playing time with the first team - Bayern head coach Hansi Flick
"I'm very happy with his development, and I think the cooperation and the regular communication between us as an American association and FC Bayern is outstanding. We are trying to develop a great player from a great talent together." - Berhalter
"We're a lot more compact since he moved into the centre of defence. He's a very talented player." - former Bayern reserves coach Sebastian Hoeneß
"He's different than anything we've ever had as a centre-back because I think his range of passing is better than any center back we've ever seen in the United States. His ability to see the field and break lines with his passing - he's a high-level passer from the back - and he's just an athletic freak." - CBS Sports soccer analyst Thomas Rongen, a former scout with the USMNT