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Chris Gloster returns to New York City chasing trophies with New Mexico United

The former NYCFC defender, and 2021 MLS Cup champion, talks returning to face a former team in the US Open Cup and how he's settled into life with his new club.

Chris Gloster in full flow during New Mexico United training | Photo: New Mexico United’s Instagram

Chris Gloster spent two seasons playing for New York City FC, winning MLS Cup and Campeones Cup as part of the 2021 and 2022 squads, and the defender is now set for a New York City comeback in the US Open Cup.

Gloster’s current club, New Mexico United of the USL Championship, next faces New York City FC II at Belson Stadium in Queens in the US Open Cup’s Round of 16.

It’s a homecoming in multiple ways for the 23-year-old left-back, who has deeper connections here than his role as part of the two most accomplished New York City FC teams.

Gloster is a New Jersey native originally from Montclair who has also played a handful (five to be exact) of matches with NYCFC II and under head coach Matt Pilkington, alongside remaining II team players like JJ Jimenez, Kwaku Owusu, and Máximo Carrizo, to name a few.

Hudson River Blue spoke with Gloster by phone following a New Mexico United training session last week to catch up with the ex-Pigeon, learn more about his new USL Championship team, and get his reaction to returning to the East Coast to face one of his former clubs.

"It's a very exciting moment and I think it'll be a big moment, to see the guys that I used to play with in the second team and the coach as well, and hopefully see some of the first-team coaches there at the game," said Gloster. "I’m very excited and very motivated for this game."

Gloster and New York City parted ways in February 2023, with the defender spending some time with Atlanta United 2 in MLS NEXT Pro last summer. Gloster made the move to New Mexico United this winter and has been a regular starter at left-back under head coach Eric Quill.

"Being able to gel into this team has been pretty easy, and the way that we want to play really fits my play style," said the attack-minded fullback when asked about his acclimation to life in New Mexico. Gloster cited his familiarity with Quill and some of his new teammates as things that have made his move to the Albuquerque-based club easier.

With Gloster in the fold, New Mexico United has thrived in the early portion of the 2024 USL Championship season, sitting atop the Western Conference with six wins in nine league games played. Gloster has made seven appearances in the league and one in the US Open Cup to date, with six starts and a team record of 6 W-1 D-1 L when he's played.

New Mexico travels to Belson Stadium coming off a “Cupset” of current MLS Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake in the Open Cup's Round of 32, and Gloster says winning silverware is the main goal, regardless of the nostalgia elicited by a return to the Tri-State Area.

"No matter what the trophy is, our goal is to bring it home with us. Coming in here, from the start of preseason, our goal was to win some hardware. In both USL Championship and in the US Open Cup, there's a big opportunity for the team," Gloster said.

Gloster is uniquely experienced, having played in Divisions I, II, and III of the American soccer league pyramid while also spending time with clubs overseas in the Netherlands and Germany, PSV Eindhoven and Hannover 96, respectively.

He was also a standout player for the United States national team at the youth level, representing the U.S. at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, the 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship, and the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

That 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup saw Gloster start in defense for the USYNT alongside current New York City FC midfielder James Sands, who Gloster says he's kept in touch with even during his post-New York City years, along with NYCFC assistant coach Rob Vartughian, who also crossed paths with Gloster through the United States national team program.

Gloster's playing career has taken him all over the map and has had its stops and starts, but his focus with New Mexico United is clear.

“In New Mexico, my goal is to become a consistent starter for this team, and then whatever comes my way will come my way, depending on how well I do. I have certain goals, everyone has individual goals, but as of right now my goal is to try, as a team, to bring home the US Open Cup, as well as a USL Championship.”

Standing in his way as he chases Open Cup will be several familiar faces, with Gloster saying "When we found out we're playing them, a couple of guys from the [NYCFC] staff reached out to say ‘we're excited to see you,’ so it'll be nice to see them, but it's full focus on the game."

Gloster said he was excited by the prospect of reacquainting himself with some of the NYCFC II teenagers he crossed paths with during his two seasons with New York City. "I've seen those guys grow, and it'll be nice to see how they play, being a couple years older, and to see what the First Team has taught them," Gloster said.

The Montclair native also plans to have a number of family and friends in the crowd at Belson Stadium for the cup tie, saying "I'm hoping for New Mexico United to have a good crowd out there.”

It'll be a night of reunions and returns for Gloster, but he reiterated that his focus will be on beating his old club.

"Any person who goes back to an old club and basically to their hometown will have some feelings about it, and it'll be nice to be in that environment, but it's full focus on NYCFC II."