One of the rarely discussed aspects of professional soccer is the paperwork. The legal nature of the sport can complicate matters, with players often at the whims of unforeseen or seemingly unfair rules and regulations that can prevent advancement or outright derail a career. At the mere age of 21, Christian Cappis has already overcome two awkward quagmires, forging ahead at the club level and with the national team. On the eve of a move to a top Danish club and nearing closer to his first senior cap, the central midfielder is a talent on the rise.
After winning the 2017 U-18 Development Academy Championship with Texans SC, Cappis and teammate Chris Richards were invited to join the vaunted FC Dallas Academy. It was this switch that would lead to the first of two newsworthy events in his young career. When the club attempted to sign the midfielder to a professional Homegrown contract, the move was challenged by Houston and blocked by MLS due to a now since relaxed territorial rule restricting players from signing outside of specific regions. Unwilling to join the Dynamo who “never really came after [him],” Cappis traveled to Europe and went on trial with several clubs including Bayern Munich. “That was a difficult time,” he shared with the Underdog Soccer Podcast. “You can’t go the easy way in the MLS.”
Cappis ultimately signed with Hobro IK, then of the Danish Superliga, and immediately appeared in the Danish Cup. His new club praised his “great potential” while having “a lot to learn.” In his first appearance, a 4-2 loss to Odense Boldklub, the teenager registered an assist.
“I would’ve loved to play in Dallas,” Cappis told Top Drawer Soccer. “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 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 in a top league that has a lot of exposure so it ended up working out really well for me”
The second season was a “right place, right time” breakthrough, stepping into the lineup in July after team captain Jonas Brix-Damborg fractured a toe. Cited for “excellent” play that demonstrated a natural feel for the game, he made 30 appearances across all competitions and drew interest from a variety of clubs, including several from the Bundesliga. Despite his performances, Hobro was relegated, potentially opening the door for an eventual move.
Temporarily sticking with the club in the 1st Division on a long-term contract, this current season got off to a dismal start after another logistical issue. Hobro reportedly “forgot to renew his work permit,” which resulted in his passport being “confiscated by the North Jutland Police.” The dicey situation could have resulted in Cappis’ deportation, but the situation was resolved, allowing him to return to the squad. However, his agent was dismayed by the fiasco, even suggesting the involvement of FIFA.
“When he became aware of the case because the police confiscated his passport, no one from the club took action,” Johan Wins told Bold. “No one from the club has called him. No one has asked if he is okay. He has not even been given a training program to follow while out. He himself has had to find and pay for a personal trainer… There is interest from other clubs in and outside Denmark, but [Hobro] has just rejected it all because [they] don’t want to negotiate.”
Since returning to the lineup, he has made 18 appearances in the second tier. Unfortunately, Hobro continues to plummet, now in the bottom half of the table. Despite his impending departure, manager Michael Kryger is reliant upon the midfielder, not banishing him to the reserves as many scorned parties are wont to do in similar situations.
His stay will be brief after Brøndby had a transfer offer accepted for the midfielder. The deal is reportedly one of the highest in the history of Hobro when including an appearance threshold and sell-on clause. Cappis will join The Boys from Vestegnen this summer on a four-year contract.
“I have learned an incredible amount, and I have grown as a person and as a player [at Hobro],” he said after signing. “I am of course looking forward to the new opportunities and experiences after the summer, but right now my focus is to end this season as strongly as possible.”
At the international level, Cappis receives routine call-ups to various levels, but so far has been unable to appear at any major competitions for the USMNT. Despite being cut from the 2019 U-20 World Cup squad, Gregg Berhalter invited him to the 2020 January camp and the recent friendlies against Jamaica and Northern Ireland. He was looking forward to the Olympic Games, sharing that being named to the team “would mean a lot,” a dream that has been dashed by another qualification failure.
Midfield is perhaps the deepest position for the national team, but there is still room for a versatile player with some bite. Untroubled by the physical nature of the Danish league, the left-footed Cappis is a strong presence in the center of the field with an intense work rate. He is equally capable of absorbing a hard challenge and shouldering an opponent off the ball. His long-range passing is excellent, frequently switching the field and hitting runners from 30 and 40 yards away. OneGoal describes him as a “complete midfielder, an elite presser, [possessing] a never-ending engine, and good in the air,” a talent who “can truly do it all.”
Primarily deployed as a box-to-box, Berhalter may view Cappis’ long-term future as a defensive midfielder, testing the position switch in training camps. The move would make sense: he’s calm under pressure, capable of spreading the ball, and can shut down opponents. His tendency for rash and poorly-timed tackles is a weakness, although this could be viewed as a youthful indiscretion overcome with experience. One Goal also lists driving the ball into the final third and 1-on-1 defending as “areas for improvement,” which have been a focus at Hobro.
Currently in relative limbo before the upcoming transfer, the upcoming season could be the most important so far as Cappis joins Brøndby. Having experienced the lows of relegation, the looming challenge is competing at a club currently on pace to finish second in the Superliga and qualify for the preliminary stages of the Champions League. The next step will be finding a place in the rotation and eventually contributing on a consistent basis. With success, perhaps another move to a bigger club could follow, ideally without the paperwork and logistical issues that have plagued his career.