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USMNT’s Chris Richards unveiled by Crystal Palace

USMNT center back Chris Richards agreed personal terms with Crystal Palace and has been unveiled by the Premier League outfit in a surprise move from Bayern Munich to London’s Eagles.

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The deal, which was initially reported by Sky Sports in Germany last week, and a transfer fee of close to $20 million is attached.

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As things stand, Richards would probably start the USMNT’s first game at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar alongside Walker Zimmerman, but his place in the first team is tenuous at best with Aaron Long re-inserting himself into the conversation during the June international window.

Cameron Carter-Vickers will also draw consideration from Gregg Berhalter following a fantastic season for Celtic, prompting the Scottish Premiership champions to make his loan from Tottenham a permanent transfer.

Chris Richards scouting report – What type of player is he?

Chris Richards’ game should be wonderfully suited to the way Patrick Vieira wants his side to play. The Birmingham, Alabama, native is a well-rounded, ball-playing center back who’s comfortable playing the ball with either foot. That fact was probably key in Vieira’s desire to sign Richards, given Crystal Palace ranked in the top half of the Premier League in terms of possession during his first season in charge (50.8 percent, 10th-most).

Richards’ advanced numbers, via FBRef, reveal an above average center back on the ball and an underrated, proactive ball-winner who’s used to defending in space off of it (stats below are over the last 365 days among center backs in Europe’s top five leagues).

As a passer, Richards was a high-volume player for Hoffenheim. He typically kept the ball on the ground rather than playing balls behind or over the defense; the vast majority of his touches came in the middle third of the field while being given a fair bit of freedom to move into the final third as well; there were few, if any, center backs more comfortable under pressure, which is welcome news ahead of moving to the high-pressing Premier League.

Touches: 87th percentile (79.6 per game)
Passes completed
: 81st percentile (57.9 per game)
Passes attempted: 84th percentile (66.8 per game, with 57.3 on the ground or played in low)
Passes under pressure: 99th percentile (10.3 per game)
Left-foot passes attempted: 20.2 per game
Right-foot passes attempted: 39 per game
Touches in the middle third: 87th percentile (40.2 per game)
Touches in attacking third: 73rd percentile (3.9 per game)
Carries: 81st percentile (49 per game)
Progressive carries: 62nd percentile (2.69 per game)
Progressive carrying distance: 58th percentile (111.7 yards per game)
Dispossessed: 33rd percentile (0.3 per game)

As a defender, Chris Richards tended to do the bulk of his work further up the field rather than on the back foot. He was an active presser for Hoffenheim, ranking among the best the further forward he went.

Successful pressures: 94th percentile (5.2 per game)
Pressures: 83 percentile (11.8 per game)
Pressures in the middle third: 88th percentile (5.1 per game)
Pressures in attacking third: 91st percentile (1 per game)
Ball recoveries: 86 percentile (11.1 per game)
Passes blocked: 99th percentile (1.8 per game)
Shots blocked: 60th percentile (0.8 per game)
Blocks: 99th percentile (2.6 per game)

While most stats are quite system- and style-dependent, it paints a clear picture of a complete defender, even if we haven’t seen his very best while in a USMNT shirt (yet). Also, one who’s been vastly superior for the club and shows all the signs of being capable of taking that next step up.

Chris Richards to Crystal Palace a good move for USMNT?

Ahead of the new season, Richards finds himself stuck somewhere between “probably one of the two best the UMSNT has to choose from” and “he’s still in limbo over his club future and that needs sorting immediately.”

After spending the last 18 months on loan to mid-table Bundesliga side Hoffenheim (11th- and 9th-place finishes), a move to Crystal Palace (14th and 12th at the same time) represents a realistic lateral move in terms of competition for playing time, but a significant step up in terms of the quality of competition he’ll face over the course of 38 games.

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If Chris Richards can win a regular place in Vieira’s side — and there’s zero reason to believe he won’t be given every opportunity, considering the fit and the manager’s track record of trusting and developing young players — he could be an entirely different player come November than anything we’ve seen for the USMNT to this point.

Of course, the opposite could also prove true, which makes this a somewhat risky, but incredibly high-upside, transfer for the USMNT.

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