Chris Richards is still not yet ready to return for Hoffenheim’s Friday game against Stuttgart, despite having returned to training following his injury on recent USMNT duty.
The 21 year-old defender has been sidelined for Hoffenheim since exiting the World Cup qualifying loss against Canada in late-January, with what turned out to be a foot injury.
The team’s confirmation that he has returned to training this week stoked hopes of his return to the lineup for their upcoming gam. However, Hoffenheim coach Sebastian Hoeneß confirmed in his pre-game press conference that Richards will not yet be available on Friday.
“Absent for Friday’s match would be Ermin [Bičakčić], Robert Skov, Fisnik [Asllani], Kevin Vogt and Chris Richards,” Hoeneß said to the press on Wednesday afternoon.
Prior to the injury, Richards had become a regular fixture in the Hoffenheim defense. Typically, he has been starting as one of the back-three in the coach’s preferred tactical deployment.
Having been pictured in full training on Tuesday, a return for Richards in their following game on March 6 at Cologne would be expected. This would still give the American the possibility of three competitive games in the Bundesliga prior to the start of the next international window.
Prior to missing the USMNT’s 3-0 victory over Honduras due to his injury, the Alabama-born central defender had started the previous three qualifying games. With John Brooks seemingly out of favor and Mark McKenzie having been mediocre in the last window, this makes Richards one of the three preferred options for Gregg Berhalter, alongside Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson.
Hoffenheim are currently in fifth place, only trailing RB Leipzig by goal differential in the hunt for a Champions League spot. They will hopeful of taking all three points on Friday and putting pressure on the Leipzigers, as they host Pellegrino Matarazzo’s Stuttgart team, who are second-bottom in the standings.