Considering the wave of young American talent that has made its way to Germany in recent years, leading to the development of the likes of Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, perhaps it is inevitable that the U.S. national team's lengthy search for a reliable left back will also find an answer in Germany.
Chris Gloster knows about the USMNT's struggles at the left back position, and the 18-year-old defender is hoping to put himself in position to be a solution to the problem.
Currently featuring in the Under-23 team for Bundesliga side Hannover 96, Gloster is an under-the-radar prospect to casual U.S. soccer fans, but fans that were able to watch him star for the U.S. Under-20 national team on its run to the Concacaf championship last November saw the kind of left back they've been dreaming off for the USMNT.
Tall, fast, tough defensively, skilled offensively, and some swagger thrown in for good measure.
"I can’t believe how far he’s come along in the last year and a half," U.S. Under-20 coach Tab Ramos told Goal when asked about Gloster. "In the U-17 World Cup he was good, but now I think Gloster would be a starter in MLS, I think for almost any team, as a left back."
Gloster spent his formative years playing in New York Red Bulls academy, where he played alongside U.S. national team midfielder Tyler Adams. The Montclair, New Jersey native eventually joined the U.S. Under-17 national team residency program in Florida, but wound up deciding to make the move to Germany rather than signing with his hometown club.
It was a decision that didn't come easily for him.
"It was really tough because before I started realizing I wanted to play in Europe they were giving me a lot of opportunities to train with the first team and with the USL," Gloster told Goal. "I even made my USL debut, played 85 minutes, and it was tough for me and my family because that club formed me into the player I am now.
"I grew up around that club. The first game I watched was at Red Bull Arena. You always want to play in your hometown and in front of your friends and family. It was tough but I realized I needed to go to Europe."
Gloster made the move to Hannover in the summer of 2018, joining a club where another American fullback made a lasting impression.
Long-time USMNT defender Steve Cherundolo enjoyed a lengthy career at Hannover, rising to the level of club captain, and still casts a shadow that Gloster can feel to this day.
"I hear about him every day," Gloster said. "They’re always talking about Cherundolo and what a good player he was and how comfortable he was at the club."
Gloster wasted no time making a strong impression at his new home, earning a promotion from the club's U-19 team to its U-23 side at the age of 18.
He took a break from that rapid ascent to join the U.S. Under-20 team for the Concacaf championships, and he earned Best XI honors for the tournament after helping the United States win the title and secure its place at the Under-20 World Cup, set for this summer in Poland.
Gloster turned heads in that tournament with his dangerous attacking runs, as well as his steady defensive work. He credited his early experiences at Hannover with helping give him an edge at the Concacaf championships.
"Germany is a totally different style of play. It’s more physical, harder, more demanding, and I think that’s where I get my confidence from. Confidence is key and being in Germany, and playing with older guys, that has given me a lot of confidence."
Gloster returns to action with the Hannover Under-23 team this weekend, as Germany's U-23 division resumes play following its winter break, and Gloster will be looking to continue sharpening his skills to ensure he maintains his place on the U.S. U-20 team as the World Cup draws closer.
He is determined to continue improving, seeing the Under-20 World Cup as a good tournament to showcase his talent and highlight to U.S. fans that he could eventually be the answer in a position that has been a trouble spot for the USMNT for years.
"I’ve heard all these things about how the U.S. can never find that certain left back to hold the position, be up and down, attacking and defending," he said. "Hearing that stuff, and seeing where I am now, I’ve just got to keep grinding and keep working and hopefully I’ll be able to mesh into it and shine and show myself and show people that I can be that left back."