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SSFC Spotlight: Dual-national Tomas Totland aiding title fight at Häcken

The dual-national fullback is impressing in the Allsvenskan.

Norway v Honduras: Group C - 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup Photo by Alex Livesey - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Uncovering and tracking dual-national talents is an old pastime for supporters of the United States Men’s National Team. Even if the player never comes close to a call-up, there is a thrill in determining his potential connection and imagining the possibility of arriving from out of nowhere to land on a future roster. While miles off the radar, Tomas Totland is enjoying a steady rise in the Scandinavian leagues. The 23-year-old Norwegian-American fullback recently joined Bollklubben Häcken and has quickly cemented himself as a key member of the title-challenging squad.

Born in Bergen and in possession of an American passport, Totland played in the academy of local lower-division side Fana IL. He began making first-team appearances in 2015. The winger trained with bigger clubs in hopes of a professional deal.

In 2017, Eliteserien side Sogndal Fotball signed the 17-year-old on a contract through 2019, with the intention of him having a future impact. He rejoined Fana on a brief loan, while the parent club struggled and ultimately endured relegation. Upon his return, the fullback played with the reserves, won a national youth championship, and debuted in his second year, making 18 total appearances across all competitions.

The 2019 second division season resulted in continued success, as Totland appeared in 32 matches, contributing one goal and two assists. Songdal extended him through 2021, describing him as an “exciting player with good attitudes on and off the field.” The following year, he made a massive leap forward on the attacking side of the ball with six goals and seven assists, becoming a “tone-setter.” Clubs began to take notice of his development, including Brann.

Totland jumped to the Eliteserien with newly-promoted Tromsø Idrettslag on a four-year deal, known as the “northernmost top-tier side in the world.” Management hailed his experience and youth, hoping that the fullback would provide competition and take a big step forward. Now lining up at winger, he appeared in 27 matches and put up five goals and three assists, helping Gutan (The Boys) avoid relegation. As one writer noted, the league’s quality “was not sufficient for a player of [his] caliber.”

The next season brought another move, this time his first transfer abroad to BK Häcken in the Swedish Allsvenskan, turning down reported interest from Vålerenga, Norrköping, Toulouse, Inter Miami, and the Chicago Fire. The transfer fee was reportedly in the range of $350,000. “We were very happy we managed to sign one of the most exciting players in the Norwegian league this year,” said sporting director Martin Ericsson. “[He is] a good offensive fullback who in the last two years has accounted for many points in the highest leagues. Tomas is a smart football player despite his young age.”

After an initial ramp-up period and dealing with an illness, Totland has thrived with Getingarna (the Wasps). He quickly assumed the starting right back position and registered four assists in 23 appearances, earning praise for his play on both sides of the ball. His fullback partner is Kristoffer Lund, a Danish-American dual national.

The confident young defender expected to succeed in Sweden. “It has been a good curve,” Totland told the club’s official website. “It’s a new club, a new city, and the whole package. It takes some time to get into it, but the group is very good. I’m on the right path. I want to score goals, create chances, and contribute with assists. That’s why BK Häcken brought me here.”

Häcken currently tops the table with 51 points with five matches remaining, three ahead of Djurgårdens IF. This would be a historic first Allsvenskan title in all 82 years for Getingarna, topping a runner-up finish in 2012. The new signing has taken on a key role and is standing out as one of the league’s top wide players, potentially lined up for yet another move during the offseason.

As an international, Totland made sporadic appearances with Norway at various youth levels. He played in one match at the 2019 U-20 World Cup, featuring for 29 minutes in an infamous 12-0 victory over Honduras that included nine goals from Erling Haaland. However, the Miami Herald recently revealed his American heritage, which could always be of greater interest in the future.

Totland is capable of lining up at a variety of winger and fullback positions on both sides of the formation but is “better on the right.” He possesses “breakthrough power and speed,” while also serving as a solid one-versus-one defender. His preference is for a vertical-attacking style that befits his intelligent, advancing movement and allows him to be involved.

As a true modern fullback, he is often more present in the final third than his own defensive half, with a history of scoring in all manner of ways. In the Allsvenskan, the 22-year-old thrives in Häcken’s 4-3-3 formation, overlapping with the winger, receiving the ball, and having the space to make the decision to cross or dribble inside for a long-distance shot. Totland ranks in the top tier of the league for progressive carries, key passes, forward pass completion, shot blocks, pass interceptions, passing percentage, crossing, and assists.

Barring completely unexpected changes of fortune, Totland will in all likelihood never play for the USMNT. However, he is still at a relatively young stage of his career and circumstances shift. With a move or two up the European ladder, perhaps the fullback finds his way to the fringes of the depth chart or competing with Norway in senior international competition. Claiming the Allsvenskan title would certainly be a massive step toward elevating his profile.