After a transformative month, Lund eager to make strides with Palermo & the USMNT
September 21, 2023
WHEN THE UNITED STATES national team assembled in St. Louis earlier this month to kickoff the September window, it was a return to familiarity. Gregg Berhalter was back in charge, and of the 26 players who he called up, 25 of them had either been called up before or have spent meaningful time with U.S youth national teams.
For Kristoffer Lund, however, it marked the start of a new journey. Until that point, Lund had been playing as a left back for Denmark’s youth national teams. But as a U.S. dual national, he recently opted to utilize his one-time switch to play for the United States following discussions with Berhalter.
Upon his arrival in St. Louis, everything was new to him. He had watched the U.S. team on television but had never met any of the players. He was uncertain how they would react to a newcomer or how he would fit into 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 American Soccer Now 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.
Specifically, one player he connected with was Antonee Robinson, who has been with the team since 2018 and is also a dual national raised abroad. For now, Lund is pushing for the backup left back position behind Robinson, but even with the potential competition, the two got along well.
“I met him, and he was very nice,” Lund said of Robinson. “He's played a lot for the national team, and he also was in the starting eleven at the World Cup where they did so great last winter. I also have followed him at the club level where he is in the Premier League every day. I have great respect for him. Even though we fight for the same position, he was very open and congratulated me a lot when I got on for my debut and when I started my first game.”
Like for most dual nationals in his situation, the decision to make a permanent change of association is an important moment. Lund had played for five Danish youth national teams from the U-17 through the U-21 levels and was comfortable there. But following his conversations with Berhalter, he was struck by the opportunity the U.S. offered him.
“For me, it was all about the end result,” Lund explained. “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 US... But then [Gregg] talked with me, and he told me what he thought about me. For me, it sounded very promising.”
It also helps that Lund is close with the American side of his family. He was born in Kerteminde, Denmark on the island of Funen. His father, Klaus, is Danish but his mother, Kirstin, is an American marine biologist and U.C. Santa Cruz alum who moved to Denmark from her native Colorado.
Lund, 21, spent a lot of time with his mother growing up. When he was much younger and she was working at a zoo, he would often accompany her and “do as much work as she would let me.” And Kristin would also speak English with him.
Every year growing up, they would travel as a family to the United States. He still speaks regularly with his stateside relatives which includes his grandfather in Colorado, his grandmother in Gig Harbor, Washington, and his aunt in Alabama.
“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.”
But now with the switch, Lund’s ties to the United States are now connected on the field to his professional career.
His first camp turned out to be more than simple introductions. His debut came in the final 10 minutes of the 3-0 win over Uzbekistan where he was on the field for the final two goals and was complemented afterward by Berhalter to the media. In the second game against Oman, Lund started and played the full 90 in a commanding 4-0 win.
Prior to camp, Berhalter acknowledged that U.S Soccer had been tracking Lund for some time. But in 2022 and 2023, Lund made huge strides where he was a starter for Sweden’s BK Häcken and played a big role in the club’s first ever Allvenskan championship. That paved the way for a transfer to Palermo in August and a call-up from Berhalter.
“With Kristoffer, he is a guy who has been on our radar for the last two years,” Berhalter said. “We've been watching him play for his club. 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.”
With Palermo FC, Lund is also a newcomer on a very ambitious club which was acquired by City Football Group 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 and powerful ownership groups, there is optimism that Palermo’s best days are ahead.
With CFG’s backing, Palermo has been upgrading their team and acquiring Lund was part of that. He completed his transfer to Palermo at the end of the window and he is now part of what he hopes, and many believe, will be a strong promotional campaign. Through four games, Palermo has 10 points.
When Lund was the subject of transfer interest this summer, Palermo checked a lot of boxes for him - specifically, it was always a goal of his to play in Italy. He has that opportunity now and he looks forward to the pressure and expectations of helping Palermo not just return to Serie A but also to thrive there.
“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. “As you can see, 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.”
The last month has been a whirlwind for Lund who is now on Palermo and with the United States national team. Following the U.S. camp, Berhalter said that he felt Lund’s first camp was “a good starting point for him," while adding: "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."
Both moves have certainly opened the door for him in terms of opportunities moving forward and he now looks forward to seeing what is next.
“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.”