American Haji Wright, 18. announced on Twitter today that he has officially signed with FC Schalke 04. Because of FIFA rules, Wright could not sign with a foreign club until he turned 18, which he did on March 27. Wright has trained with the Gelsenkirchen club and impressed enough to earn a contract. He may see action for Schalke’s U-19 squad this Saturday when they play the U-19s of Borussia Monchengladbach.
Born in California, Wright has been in the academy of MLS side the L.A. Galaxy. The 6’2″ forward has also featured in 10 matches for the US U-15 squad and another 34 matches for the US U-17s, where he’s racked up an amazing 27 goals.
Wright was only interested in playing overseas after high school, and thus signed with the NASL champion NY Cosmos last season as he had to wait until he was 18 to play overseas. He saw little action for the Cosmos, appearing three times (one start) in NASL play and once in US Open Cup action for a club that included former Schalke forward Raul in its championship run last year. His contract with the Cosmos was terminated in December as both parties were aware that his time with the Cosmos was only a temporary situation.
Current Schalke Sporting Director Horst Heldt stated
We’re happy to have added another talented youngster in the form of Haji Wright to our squad. He’s a dynamic, deadly striker. We’re certainly looking forward to seeing how he’ll progress in the next few years.
“We’ve been tracking the player for two years,” explained director Oliver Ruhnert. “I’m sure that he’ll prove to be excellent for the U19s and first team. We’re certain that Haji has the necessary traits to succeed. It’s really impressive how quickly he’s managed to learn German.”
The Royal Blues have earned a reputation for developing standout players in recent years, with Julian Draxler and Max Meyer the most well-known of recent vintage, and hopefully they’ll have another future starlet in the young Californian. Wright is noted for his quickness, his ability to win headers and his finishing. He is talented with both feet and is said to have great instincts, but like many young players, needs to make better decisions in the opponent’s final third. The LA native has played mainly in a center forward role thus far in his career.
Wright joins a growing contingent of young Americans playing in Germany at the youth level. SC Freiburg features both Caleb Stanko, 22, and goalkeeper Zack Steffen, 21 with Stanko getting some time with SCF’s senior squad in Bundelsiga 2 action while also featuring for their reserves and goalkeeper Steffen having 10 games with the reserves so far this season. Russell Canouse, 20, has played in 20 matches for Hoffenheim’s reserve squad in Regionalliga Sudwest action, playing the central midfield role. Schalke’s biggest rivals, Borussia Dortmund, employ 17 year-old American Christian Pulisic, who has made the jump from BvB’s U-19 squad to the club’s senior squad, and is now considered a full-fledged member of the yellow-blacks’ senior squad by coach Thomas Tuchel. Hopefully we’ll see a similar development with Schalke’s young, talented American.
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