Khiry Shelton could become the 53rd American to play in the Bundesliga if he features for Paderborn this season. - © imago images / pmk
Khiry Shelton could become the 53rd American to play in the Bundesliga if he features for Paderborn this season. - © imago images / pmk

Khiry Shelton: who is Paderborn’s new American attacker?

He was New York City FC’s first-ever draft pick and bears more than a passing resemblance to RB Leipzig’s Yussuf Poulsen, but what else is there to know about Paderborn forward Khiry Shelton? has the scoop…

Khiry Shelton
Age: 25
Club: Paderborn
Position: Right-winger/striker
Country: USA (U23 cap)

Key stats

Shelton first came to the fore at Oregon State University – part of the same athletic program that also produced NBA legend Gary Payton and NFL wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Similarly powerfully-built, the 6’3”-tall forward was selected second overall by New York City in the 2015 MLS Superdraft, with then-coach Jason Kreis describing Shelton as “our top guy”. His breakout season for the Bronx Blues came under Kreis’s successor Patrick Vieira in 2016, though. Shelton assisted six goals – as many as Andrea Pirlo – from the right-hand side of the Arsenal legend’s preferred 4-1-4-1 formation, and chipped in with four of his own to boot.

"Andrea Pirlo to the left of me, David Villa to my right, here I am..." - stuck in the middle of two of the greatest players ever to have played the game at New York City FC. - imago/ZUMA Press

As is all-too-common with physically gifted athletes, injuries have, however, derailed Shelton’s progress in recent years. He missed more than 100 days due to muscular injuries over his last two seasons with NYCFC, and moved onto Sporting Kansas City in 2018. Repurposed as a central striker, his two goals and five assists in MLS hinted that the promise of old wasn’t gone, and Paderborn gambled on his talent in January.

An eight-time youth international with the USMNT, the 25-year-old is yet to add a senior international cap to his collection, but that could change in the season to come if he can perform on his biggest stage to date: the Bundesliga.

Plays a bit like: Yussuf Poulsen

With his height, gait, and propensity to make chances as often as he takes them, Shelton bears more than a passing resemblance to Leipzig and Denmark forward Poulsen. Poulsen went from scoring five- and four-goal hauls in his first two Bundesliga seasons to plundering 15 in the 2018/19 campaign, and if Shelton can make even half as much progress, Paderborn could have a serious player on their hands.

At 6'3", Shelton (No.14) promises to be a handful in the opposition box for Paderborn next season. - imago images / Nordphoto

Did you know?

Like John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, and Jermaine Jones before them, Shelton is a military kid, his father having been a platoon sergeant for the U.S. Army, and he can be found visiting war memorial museums on Veterans Day. Unlike the aforementioned Deutschamerikaners, Shelton was born in the USA, but he did spend the first seven years of his childhood in Germany, where his interest in soccer – or is that football? - was first ignited. “I started playing in Germany,” Shelton explained on Toyota’s DriveTime. “There, it’s crazy, Americans don’t understand: at age four or five they’re already put in their positions!” That Shelton’s best position remains up for debate is a puzzle Paderborn coach Steffen Baumgart will look to solve in 2019/20.

Julian Green, Bobby Wood, John Brooks and Weston McKennie (l-r.) have all made full USA debuts after playing in the Bundesliga - is Khiry Shelton next? - imago/ZUMA Press

What they’re saying

“Actually, I was a defender. I wasn’t [a big kid]. I had a huge growth spurt when I was in high school. I grew eight inches over my sophomore summer going into my junior year.” – Shelton, on his progress in the game

“I’m very blessed to have my father in my life, you know… not a lot of people can say that, who’ve been in the military, they’ve either lost their mother or their father and that’s the first thing that hits home.” – Shelton, on his father, whom he remains close to to this day

“Home” – Shelton, when asked on DriveTime to describe Germany in one word

“Khiry will always be a symbol and an important figure in this football club because he was the first player we [ever] took in the draft.” – former New York City manager Vieira

“We became aware of [him] through our scouting network. We’re pleased to have signed [him] for Paderborn. We now have more attacking options and are ready for the future.” – former Paderborn sporting director Markus Krösche, who recently joined Poulsen’s Leipzig