When working in a single entity league, it’s good to know all the roster mechanisms. Luckily for the Philadelphia Union, Earnie Stewert is in tune to the minute intricacies of building a roster.
What I’m referring to is the Philadelphia Union’s recruitment of homegrown player Adam Najem. For those who don’t know, Najem is a highly rated member of the New York Red Bull’s academy who has graduated from Akron, the holy grail of college soccer development. Having produced talents such as DeAndre Yedlin, Perry Kitchen, Darlington Nagbe, and Will Trapp among others, Najem is in good company.
He is a 22-year-old midfielder who has racked up the accolades while playing for Akron. A top footballer and scholar, Najem has multiple appearances on the All-MAC team as well as multiple MAC distinguished scholar-athlete awards.
Najam has spent time in the NYRB academy setup and was offered a Home Grown contract at the end of his junior season for the league minimum of 51,500 thousand dollars. He reportedly turned this down to keep his options open for if opportunities came from abroad but due to a sub-par (by his standards) senior season, those didn’t materialize but NYRB didn’t want to up their previous offer. This led to a contract standoff with NYRB that is ending with them shopping his Home Grown Player rights.
For most guys, this wouldn’t be huge news but if Najem was draft eligible, he likely would have been drafted within the top 10 because of his talent. It makes sense for NYRB to hold a talent like this for ransom instead of letting him walk for free and it’s also a decision that they can stand behind due to their midfield depth in the academy. NYRB also recently drafted Zeiko Lewis and Ethan Kutler who are able to play in attacking positions.
NYRB also have Alex Muyl, Tyler Adams, and Sean Davis ahead of Najem on the depth chart. They have much more youth in the central midfield positions than most which allowed them to make the tough decision to send Dax MaCarty to Chicago.
Here’s a small highlight video from 2014,
How does this concern the Philadelphia Union?
More from Philadelphia Union
- VIDEO: Even Philly Fans Can’t Hate Messi’s First Goal vs Philadelphia Union
- DraftKings Pennsylvania Promo Will Give You $200 Bonus GUARANTEED for Betting Just $5
- Philadelphia Union 2021 MLS season preview
- Don’t laugh, but the Union might be Philadelphia’s next champions
- Philadelphia Union: Previewing upcoming matchup vs Atlanta United
First reported by Ives Galarcep of goal.com, the Philadelphia Union acquired Najem’s rights from NYRB in order to sign him to a contract of their own. Given the recent success of top talent for the Union, nabbing a guy of Najem’s caliber is a major coup. While expecting him to repeat the success of last year’s rookies wouldn’t be a feasible proposition, it wouldn’t be outlandish for him to impact the team in a positive way this coming season.
Najem is looking for a payday on the higher end of the rookie scale similar to what guys like Jose Hernandez and Ian Harkes were able to net which is about 80,000 thousand dollars. This is no small sum for a rookie but it’s a feasible sum for a rookie of Najem’s level especially if he’s able to become a starter in the future.
Where would Najem Play?
Najem is a guy who has played all over the pitch during his time at Akron so I had to reach out to Will Parchman of Top Drawer Soccer for the proper answer here. Parchman did a nice feature on Najem which can be found here.
When asked about what reasonable expectations for Najem should be in MLS as well as, where he would play, Parchman said,
"[Najem is] a very good player, one of the 3-5 most talented in college, I think. He played all over at Akron. They actually moved him back as a sort of deep-lying playmaker this year, but I think he’s comfortably a No. 8 ball shuttler type. Connecting the lines etc. Super possession oriented. Should be a starter within a year or two if given opportunity."
Akron’s Head Coach Jared Embick also responded when asked about Najem’s playstyle and how he thinks that Najem will transition to the next level saying,
"Adam can either be a 10 or a deep lying playmaker. I would prefer him at 10 because of his ability to see the final pass and find goal scoring positions. But whe we needed him on the ball more to dictate and control the game we play him as a controlling midfielder (8). I think he will do very well at next level because of his technique and intelligence."
Not too bad eh? If moved back, Najem could potentially form a future midfield with Derrick Jones that could be the bedrock for Philadelphia Union success for years to come. It’s a nice way for the team to make up for not having a first round pick in the Super Draft and is also in line with Jim Curtin and Earnie Stewert’s vision of the Union becoming a producer of national team talent.
Adding Najem would give the Philadelphia Union another top prospect for the future. For a system that has been barren of talent during its early years, this is the beginning of a new age in Chester.