It is hard, however, to imagine a young American player in recent times who has been through such extremes, both positive and negative, in a 12-month period as Christian Cappis. His journey over this brief span has been nearly worthy of a book.
Since 2020, the central midfielder from Texas has suffered relegation out of the Danish Superliga with Hobro, gone through the typical COVID-19 shutdown everyone had to endure, been deported from Denmark due to his club’s handling of his visa paperwork, dealt with statements from Hobro staff that were questionable in truth.
On the flip side, he has persevered both on and off the field. He has gotten married, he has maintained his starting spot with Hobro in the second tier of Danish soccer, he has been called-up to the full national team, and he has signed a four-year deal with Brondby that will go into effect this summer.
Brondby is currently the Superliga leaders and has a good chance of playing in the UEFA Champions League next season. The extreme nature of these ups and downs are unusual but Cappis is no stranger toward being placed in trying circumstances. Cappis initially wanted to sign a homegrown team with FC Dallas. When the Houston Dynamo challenged the deal, stating that since he is from the Houston area, where he played for the Texans, league homegrown territory restrictions limited him to signing for the Dynamo. Cappis told the league bluntly that he wouldn’t sign for Houston and if they didn’t let him sign for Dallas, he would go on trials in Europe and look to begin his career there. MLS did not budge and Cappis stayed true to his statement and packed his bags.
“I figured that I played for Dallas [2017-18 DA season], I never played for Houston, I should be able to sign for Dallas,” Cappis said in 2019. “The Dynamo made a big deal about how I belong in their territory. The league decided I could only play for Houston. Dallas told me they would love to have me but there was nothing they could do. The Dynamo were in contact with me but my thing was growing up in Houston they never showed hardly any interest in me. I thought if they didn't show that much interest in me then, why should I go and become the face of their homegrowns? We told the league we only wanted to play for Dallas in MLS. Otherwise, we would go elsewhere.”
Trials eventually led to him Hobro – a small team in the Danish Superliga. After narrowly avoiding relegation his first season, the team wasn’t nearly as lucky the following year. It wasn’t that Hobro was poor – five other teams had worse goal differentials in the regular season and nine other teams in the 14-team lost more games. Of the 26 games in the regular season, it tied a staggering 14 times and won just three times. That saw its point accumulation suffer drastically.
After the COVID-19 shutdown and at the start of the 2020-21 season, instead of playing in the second tier with Hobro, Cappis hoped that his club would have transferred him, given that he was one of the team’s youngest and best players. What happened, however, was much worse. When he left that summer, he was assured by the club that his visa was still valid for the duration of the contract. After training for a weeks to start the season, Danish police confiscated his passport and informed him he could no longer train with the club. He was later charged with being in the country and working in the country illegally -- while Hobro offered little help. Eventually he was told to leave the country until he could acquire a new visa.
“I immediately called the club,” Cappis recalled in September. “I told them that I was being deported and asked what are we going to do? They asked for me to give them two days to figure it out. Two days went by and I didn't hear anything from anybody. But that point I had to leave.”
After returning to Texas for several weeks, he eventually was able to secure a new visa in New York, quarantine, and then return to Hobro for its season in the second tier.
On the field, the season has been unspectacular. Hobro was consistently in the mid-standings and this weekend it will begin play in the relegation playoff -- which is reserved for the bottom six teams. There is little drama, however, as Hobro has a 10-point gap on each of the two teams in the relegation places. There is essentially no risk of relegation and promotion is off the table. For now, it is just playing out the string and on Sunday it visits Skive, one of the two clubs in the relegation positions.
For Cappis, the potential breakthrough will come next year. Brondby is one of the biggest clubs in the country and is chasing both silverware and a berth in the Champions League. That is quite a shift from the relegation half of the second tier.
"Christian Cappis is a talented central midfielder," Brondby sporting director Carsten V. Jensen said. "We see a potential in the young American national team player and have had him on the radar for a while now. We are happy to secure his signature right now. With this agreement, Hobro IK benefits from Christian's qualities in an exciting spring, and we look forward to having Christian included in the squad this summer."
Brondby will certainly provide a stage for Cappis that is far bigger than he has ever had in his career -- and one that should see him earn more opportunities with the United States. Like his club career, Cappis’ international career has been full of struggles but is trending upward. He was among the last players cut for the 2019 U.S. U-20 World Cup team. While he was not on the recent U-23 team that failed to qualify for Tokyo, he was likely to be in consideration for the Olympic team had qualifying been successful.
On the other side, he is on Gregg Berhalter radar for the full team. He was called up to January camp in 2020 and was a surprise inclusion on the recent roster for the March friendlies in the friendly wins over Jamaica and Northern Ireland. Cappis has still yet to appear in a game with the full national team but if he can secure playing time at Brondby, his chances will surely increase.
Given the staggering twists and turns of his career so far, predicting what is next for Cappis is a hard thing to do. But history has also shown that he's not player to bet against and he's trending in the right direction on the game’s biggest stages – with his national team and potentially in the Champions League as well.