“Christopher Richards in the perfect player to coach,” Tab Ramos told The Guardian in a piece about the young U.S. center back that was published this week.
Richards’ story is one of perseverance. The Bayern Munich defender was initially rejected by FC Dallas academy. The Guardian states that FC Dallas’ coaches believed that Richards was too raw for the youth team at the time.
The Alabama-native did not go home with a bruised pride. He stayed in Texas and joined Texans SC Houston, which also had a castoff from the Houston Dynamo academy - Christian Cappis. The duo plus a plateau of key supporting pieces helped the Texans win the Boys Development Academy U18/19 National Championship in 2016/2017. Texans SC Houston and the Solar SC (Dallas, Texas) U16/17 team from 2018/2019 are only non-MLS academy teams to win a Boys Development Academy National Championship since 2014 (PDA).
Richards was a standout for the Texans throughout the run to the Championship, and his play earned him more opportunities. But his playing career did not start with the Development Academy. Richards played for Hoover Phantoms as a youth in Alabama. His play at that level earned him a place in the Olympic Development Program.
The ODP events are a hotbed for MLS Academy scouting. Many players jump from local youth clubs to MLS academy teams after strong showings at the regional or national events.
The first opportunity with FC Dallas for Richards was a setback, but the MLS Academy came calling again after his success with Texans SC Houston. Richards parlayed his success with FC Dallas into a call-up to the Youth National Team.
Dave van den Bergh, a U.S. Youth National Team coach, told the Guardian about coaching Richards with the U19 Men’s National Team during the Youth Summit in Florida in 2018.
“I saw him for four days and I immediately pushed him on to Tab Ramos’ group,” Van den Bergh said.
Richards never gave up his spot with the U.S. U20 team after that moment. He was part of qualifying and then part of the World Cup roster, which made the run to the quarterfinals.
He is hoping to do that same thing in Germany with Bayern Munich. He is only the second U.S. born player to play for the first team at the club - following in the footsteps of Landon Donovan.
“I knew that once I got situated over there, after a few months I would be balling out and they’d want to offer me a contract, or at least extend my loan,” Richards told The Guardian.
After making his debut with the first team this season and emerging as a key player for the second team at Bayern, Richards, 20 years old, is on his way to balling out in Germany.
U.S. Soccer is hoping there are more that follow in the path. U.S. Soccer’s Scouting license was developed to give Academy staff a better picture in how to scout players like Richards, Cappis, and others who might be missed at the younger ages so they do not slip through the cracks entirely.
Richards is a rare player with his intelligence, competitiveness, and drive, but his success will hopefully open the door for more players to follow in his footsteps especially from overlooked areas like Alabama.