By James Nalton, Football Whispers
FC Bayern have already dipped into the North American transfer market once this year, signing Canadian attacker Alphonso Davies from Vancouver Whitecaps.
Davies is a high-profile signing who might be expected to work his way into the first team before the season is out, but for their most recent acquisition from the CONCACAF region, Bayern have looked to a player who may expect to spend some time with the reserves before turning out for the first team.
Chris Richards was already on the books at the German champions having joined on loan from Major League Soccer side FC Dallas, but the move has now been made permanent after the young defender impressed with Bayern’s under 19 side.
Who is Chris Richards?
The Birmingham, Alabama born centre-back initially joined Bayern for a ten day trial in the summer of 2018.
Not long after this he was turning out for the club in the International Champions Cup, having impressed sufficiently enough to earn a place in the under 19s side, initially on a loan deal from the MLS club.
He had previously appeared at this age group for the Texas side, and made the move to Europe thanks to a partnership between the two clubs at youth level.
“Chris made a very good impression during his trial in Munich,” said Bayern youth director Jochen Sauer
“We’ve decided to bring him here and give him a chance to play for our U19s. We have a lot of confidence in him.”
Having started out as a winger, Richards was eventually persuaded to give centre back a go by his coach in Alabama, Thomas Fox.
“At first I was like: there's no way. There is too much pressure. I am the last player before the goalkeeper. I don't know if I can do this,” he said.
“But right after the game began, I started connecting passes and I fell in love with the position. The rest is history.”
He played three matches in the International Champions Cup this summer, playing the full 90 minutes in a 3-2 defeat to Manchester City.
In each of these matches he finished the game with a pass accuracy of over 90 percent, and in the 30 minutes he played against Paris Saint-Germain he completed 35 of the 36 passes he attempted.
Against City he won three out of three aerial duels, and also made five interceptions in that game.
This season in the U19 Bundesliga he averages an impressive 5.8 aerial duels won per game, and wins possession back for his side on average 7.16 time per game.
Richards is a tall, rangy center-back who is good at reading the play and is able to contribute to the build-up by playing carefully chosen passes out from the back.
As a right footer, he has played primarily on the right side of a defensive duo but has also made the occasional appearance on the left.
Standing at 188 cm he doesn’t look at all uncomfortable on the ball and is able to play passes into midfield through traffic, even if under pressure from a high press.
He is quick enough to chase back if the attackers manage to break the defence at the first time of asking, and has good timing in the tackle.
In his performances for the Bayern under-19s, he has showed good organisational skills and the ability to instigate attacking moves with his passing into midfield.
International - USMNT
At the beginning of 2018, shortly before joining Bayern, Richards was part of a US Soccer U19 national team camp which assembled in Florida.
Despite not being in the senior setup he is obviously on the radar of those in charge of the USMNT, and could be someone for new coach Gregg Berhalter to consider going forward.
However, he would need more minutes at senior level in order to convince the national team selectors that he’s able to step up to that level.
For now he’ll remain in the picture at U20 level, and hope his performances in future youth matches convince the management to give him a shot at senior level, even if he’s not yet made it that far for his club.
"He is a good boy. He plays well, trains hard and he has his goal in mind,” said Bayern first team player David Alaba when speaking to Goal about the young defender.
“If he keeps working that way, he can make progress. He is very talented, that's why he is here. I think he has the potential for a great career."
Richards has stated on a number of occasions that current Bayern centre back Jerome Boateng is a player he admires, and someone who he’s trying to replicate in his own game.
The German has just turned 30, and seeing as Richards has now joined the Bundesliga side on a permanent deal, they could have him lined up as one of the players who can eventually take the World Cup winner’s place.
In the short term he is likely to have to make do with a place in the reserve or youth sides, but as a central defender who only turned 18 this year, he has plenty of time to prepare for what he, the USMNT, and Bayern hope will be a successful career at senior level.