After turning in a Best XI performance for the FC Dallas Academy in the 2017-18 Development Academy season, Christian Cappis was ready to take the next step.
Having impressed FC Dallas not only with his play in the academy, but called up to train in first team sessions, the club showed interest in signing Cappis as a Homegrown player ahead of this summer’s DA playoffs.
The Houston Dynamo had other ideas, however.
According to media reports, MLS league rules intervened. Cappis, originally from Houston, helped lead Texans SC Houston to the U18 title in the summer of 2017. After that, he moved to FC Dallas for the 2017-18 season. Being from Houston, and in the Dynamo’s homegrown territory, and the club blocked FC Dallas from signing Cappis. This despite having not played or trained for the Dynamo Academy.
Fast forward to this month, and Cappis has found his home. Announced as a signing at Hobro IK in Denmark back on November 6.
“I would’ve loved to play in Dallas,” Cappis told topdrawersoccer.com earlier this month. “They were very, very good to me there, I was good friends with the first team players, I liked the first team staff and they liked me. The whole organization, I really enjoyed my time there. The way the league works, the way the rules work it was a situation where we knew I would become a professional it’s just a matter of where….It gave me an opportunity to come to Europe very quickly, and I’m at a top league that has a lot of exposure so it ended up working out really well for me.”
Once MLS confirmed its ruling on Cappis’ situation, he left Dallas after the DA playoffs. That led him to training sessions in Europe with Bayern Munich earlier this summer. When that didn’t lead to an offer, Denmark was next on his radar. Hobro, which also employs U.S. forward Emmanuel Sabbi, was his first stop in the country. He made the trip over in September, after getting called up to U.S. U20 camp in Florida.
That kicked off a trial that ultimately led Cappis to signing his first professional contract. After the paperwork was taken care of and the signing announced on November 6, Cappis made his first professional start the day after. It came in a 4-2 loss in the Sydbank Pokalen (Danish Cup), with Cappis played 56 minutes.
“Before the game it was a little bit different [than academy experiences],” Cappis said. “You’re in a stadium, there’s a lot of people there, it’s a home game so obviously there is pressure now to get results at the professional level. You kind of feel it and leading up to the game you’re like ‘holy cow. This is something that I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid and we’re actually going to do it.’ There was a little bit of nerves, but I think if you don’t have any nerves at all before a game there’s something wrong. Once the game started, you go on for warmups, you fall into your routine of what you’ve always done.”
Cappis didn’t make the bench in the next league match, playing 90 minutes in a 2-1 win in the Reserveligaen on November 12. But that’s part of the long process that’s just started. Since he kicked off his trial, Cappis had to adjust to demands of the professional game. It’s something that was helped by earning call-ups to the FCD first team, but still a big challenge as a relatively slight central midfielder.
“The main thing on the field is the physicality and the speed of the play is so different,” Cappis said. “Obviously I never played in an MLS game so I can’t speak for MLS, but the physicality just in practices and speed of play. [The players are] so big and they don’t shy away from contact at all. Being a bit of a thinner guy, it took me a bit by surprise early on, but they have me on a program here so over the next few months hopefully I can put some weight on. I’ve adjusted a little bit in my short time but it will make it a lot easier when I put some weight on as well.”
Raised in Houston, Cappis faces plenty of adjustments away from soccer. Hobro is a town with a population north of 11,000, which is slightly more than the stadium’s max capacity of 10,700. As of 2017, Houston’s population was more than 2 million.
The weather is another element.
“It’s very cold, that’s the one thing I knew it was cold coming here and I tried to pack accordingly, but once you get here it’s another level,” he said. “But we’re only in November now and we’ve already had snow. It’s the first time I’ve seen snow in years. It’s definitely an adjustment, but there’s worse things to deal with than the cold.”
Getting that first start under his belt is a confidence boost for Cappis as he looks to earn more time on the field. Having Sabbi with him at the club shows a clear path towards becoming successful for Hobro and in the Danish Superliga.
He knows that the path is long, but it’s nothing compared to the trail he took to Denmark already.
“I can fight for minutes in this first season,” he said. “I’m not going to say I’m going to start every game because I started [on Nov. 6] but even minutes off the bench is a part of the development and part of the process that needs to happen to adjust to the league here. The main thing [I hope to do this season] is continue to get better every day in practice and continue to push myself.”