Following Union Berlin's dramatic promotion play-off victory over VfB Stuttgart, the Bundesliga looks set to house another young American prospect in the 2019/20 campaign in the shape of Lennard Maloney. But who exactly is the Berlin-born defender?
Club: Union Berlin
Position: Centre-back/ right-back
Country: USA/ Germany
Born to an American Air Force veteran father and German mother in Berlin, Maloney joined the Union academy at the age of 13 in 2012. He swiftly progressed up through the age categories and became a mainstay in the U19 side in 2017/18, making 23 appearances. The teenager evidently impressed then first-team head coach Andre Hofschneider so much that he was handed his senior debut in Bundesliga 2 on Matchday 28 that season – at the tender age of 18. He was in the starting line-up and played at right-back for 77 minutes of a 2-1 defeat to Greuther Fürth.
Maloney barely featured for his club at any level in 2018/19 as he divided his time between training and studying for his Abitur, the equivalent of A-Levels or a High School leaving certificate, but now that he's passed his exams, he's eager to focus on his playing career: "After an extremely challenging year in which I had my hands full on two fronts, I now want to break through and give my all to repay the club's faith in me."
So highly is he rated in the German capital that in April 2019 he signed a contract extension, keeping him at the club until June 2021.
Plays a bit like: John Brooks
A Berlin-born, German-American who's started his career in the capital city and plays at centre-back? No, it's not Brooks, although the similarities are striking. The hulking Wolfsburg rock is even Maloney's favourite player. Standing at 6'1", the muscular defender is strong in the tackle and at ease in possession, and is able to bring the ball out from the back and transition into attack.
Did you know?
Maloney, a self-styled "Germarican" as he calls himself on Instagram, holds dual German-American citizenship and speaks both languages fluently. He represented Germany twice at U18 level and once for the U19s before switching allegiance to the US, and has recently joined up regularly with the U20 roster.
The defender appeared in low-key friendlies against North Carolina FC and Tobacco Road FC in July 2018, and also featured in the squads that faced Jamaica and Venezuela in September last year as part of an ensemble that also included the likes of Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), Brady Scott (Cologne), Chris Gloster (Hannover) and Alex Mendez (Freiburg).
What they're saying
"Lennard is a young player with a lot of potential. As a school pupil, he's so far had to divide his energy between professional football and his academic studies. We're excited to see how he develops when he's able to focus exclusively on football. It'll be important to give him game time." – Union CEO Oliver Ruhnert
"Playing for the United States is one of my greatest dreams. Of course it's also nice to play for Germany. But deep inside my heart, I really want to play for the USA. I don't know why, this feeling is just there." - Lennard Maloney (to AmericanSoccerNow)