Just a year after joining the TSG Hoffenheim’s youth academy, American-born midfielder Russell Canouse is one step closer to the Bundesliga.
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The Pennsylvania native has signed a professional contract with Hoffenheim, after a standout campaign with the club’s Under-17 side. Canouse played for the US Under-18 national team in a tournament in Portugal last month and was recently named as Hoffenheim’s Academy Player of the Year.
“It’s been a great experience in Germany, and this contract is just the next step for me,” said Canouse, who will turn 17 next week. “The goal is to make the first team and I’m grateful for the chance to keep moving up the ladder.”
Canouse will join the Hoffenheim Under-19 team next season, the same team that US Under-23 midfielder Joseph Gyau played for when he signed with Hoffenheim two years ago. Gyau has moved up to the reserve team and made his Bundesliga debut for the club this past season.
“Russell is one of our top prospects in the academy, he has adjusted quickly to our environment and requirements,” said Alexander Rosen, Hoffenheim’s Academy Director. “He has a true professional attitude on and off the field and he has a bright future if he continues to work hard.”
A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Canouse spent time with the New York Red Bulls Academy before joining the US Under-17 National Team Residency Program. He left there after a year to join his father Gregory, who moved to Germany for work.
“Training there helped me get used to a more professional training environment,” Canouse said of the US Under-17 program. “It’s hard training every day, and you have to get used to the pace and the quality of players.
“That got me better technically and helped me grow as a player.”
Canouse’s move to Germany paved the way for a trial with Hoffenheim. He impressed enough to earn a place on the Hoffenheim U-17 team, which he eventually became the captain of. He held off signing a contract with Hoffenheim in order to keep his option of playing college soccer open. His outstanding first season with the club helped him decide to forego college to stick with Hoffenheim, and it also earned him the three-year contract he finalized after finishing the recent season.
Canouse’s path to his professional dream has not been without its rough patches. Along with the struggle of adapting to a new country, new language and new team as a teenager, Canouse has also dealt with the devastating news that his mother has been diagnosed with lung cancer.
“It’s hard being out here (in Germany), with her dealing with it back in the US,” Canouse said. “The first thing my mother told me was that she wants me to follow my dream and that’s what I’ve been doing.
“Overall my mindset is that she’s going to get through it and be strong and overcome it.
“He has sacrificed a lot to get to this point, and being a professional has always been the dream,” said Canouse’s father Gregory. “His ability to adapt to life in Germany so quickly, and become the team’s captain after six months, says a lot about him and how mature he is at such a young age.”
A hard-tackling defensive midfielder by trade, Canouse will now be competing compete with the U-19 team, where he will be two levels away from the Hoffenheim Bundesliga side, a team which currently boasts US national team players Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams, as well as Gyau.
Canouse still has plenty of work to do to realize his goal of first-team professional soccer, but he has now signed a pro contract and has taken a step closer to joining the growing list of Americans playing in Europe’s top leagues.