Hannover’s American defender Chris Gloster has explained how compatriots Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent inspired him to leave the New York Red Bulls’ academy and make the move to Germany.
The 18-year-old was speaking to The Scuffed Soccer Podcast, where he talked through his decision to join Hannover, how things differ in terms of youth development either side of the Atlantic, and what his future holds for both club and country.
“I wanted another challenge so I could develop even more as a player, become more experienced, and I think coming overseas was the way for that to happen,” the left-back explained. “Seeing Christian [Pulisic], Weston McKennie, especially hearing about my former U17 captain Josh Sargent, they all inspired me to move onto another challenge in my career.”
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Gloster got his first break in football when he joined the Red Bulls’ academy as a 13-year-old in 2013, the same system that RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams came through. On 13 August 2016, the Montclair, New Jersey native became the youngest American ever to start a United Soccer League match when he featured for the New York Red Bulls II against Orlando City B just six days after his 16th birthday.
“I’d been training with the second team the whole summer and getting some first-team training in. They wanted me to get some games in so I could be ready,” Gloster explained. “I thought I played pretty well seeing as it was my first USL match, my first start.”
Just two months later and he was named in the USA squad alongside captain Sargent for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, where he played in all five games as the team reached the quarter-finals.
After that, Gloster and those around him felt it was time to take the next step. A number of clubs in Europe had expressed interest, but the teenager decided to go to Hannover for a trial in February 2018.
“I felt Hannover was a really good club for me,” he explained. “All the players and coaches really brought me in from the moment I got there, and that’s when I knew that this club could be a place for me.
“What I really wanted was to have another challenge so I could develop even more as a player,” the 18-year-old continued, before explaining the differences between the US and German systems.
“I think here [in Germany] they give you the freedom to help develop yourself. The coaches know that they have to help with your development, but a big part of it comes from yourself.”
Gloster was originally assigned to the Hannover U19s when he arrived, but after four games he was already with the reserves and has even trained with the first team alongside fellow Americans Sebastian Soto and Bobby Wood.
“My first game in a Hannover jersey, it took me by surprise how fast, hard and intense the game was from the beginning,” he admitted. “But once the second and third came, I started to take it in and deal with it. My fourth game was when I really felt comfortable on the field, and that was when they told me I’d be with the U23s for the rest of the season. Those few games helped me adjust so I’d be ready for the U23s.”
The step up to the club’s reserves moved Gloster a step closer to a potential first-team appearance, following in the footsteps of one of Hannover’s greatest-ever players. American right-back Steve Cherundolo made 415 appearances for the Lower Saxony club – the third most of any player – and the former club and USMNT captain has even spoken with the side’s latest full-back import from across the Atlantic.
“He was here when I was in pre-season with the U23s, and I talked to him after,” Gloster explained. “He was here the other day at my game and I talked to him a little bit. It’s nice to see him here.”
The left-back believes the entire package at Hannover has aided him with the national team, and he was a key member of the side that won the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in November 2018.
“To come out with the trophy was an amazing feeling. I don’t want to say it was experience but my knowledge for the game definitely helped,” he said.
After featuring in an U17 squad that had just five foreign-based players in 2018, he is now hopeful of being named as one of at least five Bundesliga-based players in Tab Ramos’s selection for this summer’s U-20 World Cup in Poland. The defender joined Bayern Munich’s Chris Richards, Freiburg’s Alex Mendez, Wolfsburg’s Ulysses Llanez and Hannover teammate Soto in the squad’s pre-tournament training camp in March, and he has high hopes for the competition: “I think we have something really big coming, and I can’t wait actually.”
As for his club, Gloster believes that Hannover’s seemingly imminent relegation could provide him with a chance to break into the first team. Cherundolo, before him, also made his debut in Bundesliga 2. “I think especially for me it’ll mean I’ll be able to get more opportunities next season, to get on the roster, get some minutes and make my debut,” he theorised.
It may not be that far off though, with the club’s academy head, Michael Tarnat, previously stating that “we expect a lot from him, also with a view to the senior team.”
The teenager, however, does remain grounded in his approach. “I appreciate everyone saying I’m the up-and-coming thing, but I try to not let that get to me. I’ve got to keep working and hopefully my time will come when it comes.”