It’s hard to find an American player who has had a more ambitious and risk-taking month than Kristoffer Lund. In the middle of August, he was a player having success in Sweden while also playing for Danish youth national teams. Flash forward to the middle of September, Lund is now a member of the senior U.S. national team and the starting left back for Palermo FC, an Italian Serie B team that is City Football Group’s next big project.
Upon closer examination, the big moves for Lund should not have been surprising. For one, he had been excelling with BK Häcken and in 2022 was part of the core group of players who helped guide the club to its first ever Allsvenskan title. During the 2022 and 2023 Allsvenskan seasons, Lund had 11 assists in 42 games.
Internationally, it was known that Lund had options. While he was born and raised in Denmark, his mother is American, and he held a U.S. passport. In December 2022, Lund admitted he was still undecided on national teams despite having played for Denmark’s youth teams from the U-17 through the U-21 levels. In the meanwhile, the U.S team was struggling to find a left-footed backup to starting left back Antonee Robinson.
With Gregg Berhalter back in charge for the first time since the World Cup, he made the move for Lund, who both accepted the call-up for September friendlies and filed his permanently binding one-time switch to the U.S. team.
“With Kristoffer, he is a guy who has been on our radar for the last two years,” Berhalter said. “Unfortunately, before the last World Cup, I just didn't think he was ready. Since then, he's gone on to win the Swedish league. He's got a transfer to Palermo in Serie B with an emerging talent club — a Man City-owned club. We think that he could potentially fill the void that we had at the left back position in terms of our depth. It's something that we've struggled with for a while.”
Lund had watched the U.S. team on television and was impressed with its effort at the 2022 World Cup. But upon his arrival at camp in St. Louis, he was nervous. He was the only player on the roster who had never been called up to the U.S. team or had spent significant time with U.S. youth national teams. On top of that, he had never met any of the team’s players.
He was joining a team whose core had now been together for years.
“Sometimes when you jump into new stuff, it's pretty scary, but I also think that doing new stuff and getting out of your comfort zone helps you develop,” Lund told Soccer America from Italy. “I was afraid going there would be very difficult to be part of the group because, 'Oh, here's a new guy and maybe we have to fight against him for positional stuff, yadda, yadda.' But the team and everyone was very nice and took very good care of me.”
“I enjoyed every second I was there,” he added.
The camp ended up being a productive one for Lund. He made his debut against Uzbekistan when he played the final 10 minutes, was on the field for the final two goals of a 3-0 win, and was praised by Berhalter to the media postgame. Then against Oman, he played the entire game of a commanding 4-0 win.
"I think it was a good starting point,” Berhalter said of Lund after the Oman game. “What we've noticed with him is his anticipation is really good. He's able to intercept passes, always on the front foot, solid on the ball, solid getting forward, has a lot of verticality when he attacks."
But it also raises the question as to why he decided to leave the Danish setup. For dual nationals in his situation, it is always an important moment when faced with that choice and every player has different feelings as to how to decide.
For Lund, the decision revolved around both the opportunity that the U.S. team offered with its young player pool, and its unique opportunity to host both the 2024 Copa America and the 2026 World Cup. But also, Lund is still very connected to his American nationality and family. This made the idea of playing for the U.S. team comfortable.
“For me, it was all about the end result,” Lund explained about deciding to play for the United States. “My ambition as a player and as an individual is to get as good as possible and achieve as many great things as possible. I saw that as an opportunity for doing that for the U.S. ... Then [Gregg] talked with me, and he told me what he thought about me. For me, it sounded very promising.”
Lund, 21, was born in Kerteminde, Denmark, on the island of Funen. His father, Klaus, is Danish and his mother, Kirstin, is an American marine biologist who graduated UC Santa Cruz and moved to Denmark from her native Colorado. Growing up, he was very connected with her and her profession. During his childhood, she worked at a zoo, and he would often accompany her to “do as much work as she would let me.”
Kristin would also speak English with him. This would help him during his regular visits to the United States to see his family, which includes his grandfather in Colorado, his grandmother in Gig Harbor, Washington, and his aunt in Alabama. All of whom he still speaks with regularly.
“Growing up, my connection with America was great,” Lund said. “My family flew to the States every year. If we didn't go to the States, the family came to us in Denmark. My mom has spoken English to me and my siblings and my dad for as long as I can remember. Family-wise and nationality-wise, I've always been very close to America.”
After a successful first camp with the United States, Lund returned to Italy to rejoin Palermo. He joined the Sicilian club on Aug. 21 toward the end of the transfer window. For him, the move was meaningful because he always had a personal goal of playing in Italy.
With Palermo, he was joining a team that was acquired by CFG in 2022. As recently as 2019, Palermo was essentially forced to restart in Serie D due to insurance issues. But after two quick promotions to Serie B and now under the umbrella of one of the sport’s most successful ownership groups, there is optimism that Palermo’s best days are ahead.
CFG has goals of not only having Palermo return to Serie A, but also thrive there. Such an effort requires upgrading the roster and Lund was part of that. Through five games, Palermo has 10 points. suffering its first loss of the season, a 1-0 home defeat to Cosenza, on Friday.
“I knew that Palermo was a very big club, but also a very big city, and I knew that they had big ambitions on playing in the best league in Italy,” Lund said. “I like a club with ambitions. At the same time, I felt that the squad was looking very good and City Football Group was doing everything they could to help the team and the players to perform as well as possible. I only saw that as a good and positive opportunity for me to evolve and develop as a player. At the same time, going to Italy for me has always been a target point regarding getting better as a football player.”
“I feel like we're very strong and we're also a group with a lot of new players, me included,” he added. “We’re winning games. I know that from winning the league last year with my Swedish team that had never won it before, that the start of the season is very important. Regarding pressure, I don't really feel it. Of course, as time goes on, the pressure increases, but I think everyone in the team knows this and I look forward to it.”
For Lund, everything is new for him now. A new club, a new national team, a new set of previously unfamiliar teammates.
The changes have opened doors. Lund’s ties to the United States are now connected on the field to his professional career. He can compete for a spot on Copa America and World Cup rosters under a coach who appreciates him. He now has a pathway toward promotion in Serie A backed by an owner willing to do what it takes to get there.
“It has been a bit difficult with all the change and the new staff and new teammates but at the same time, it has also been an honor and it's been a very big moment for me — moving to Italy and at the same time playing for the U.S.,” Lund said with a smile. “It's been tough but at the same time very enjoyable.”
Photo: Jeremy Olson/ISI Photos