Player of the Week

Player of the week: Adam Najem

Photo: Earl Gardner

Both Philadelphia and their USL affiliate in Bethlehem faced Red Bull sides this past weekend. While the Union lost 2-0 at Talen Energy Stadium, the Steel won by the same scoreline on the road against New York Red Bulls II.

It was the club’s third victory in four matches, and their first ever win over last season’s USL champions. The three points may not have come so easily without the help of a player the Red Bulls once called their own.

From another’s orchard

Adam Najem is PSP’s player of the week.

In the 5th minute, the attacking midfielder scored his first professional goal sending a curled effort passed  goalkeeper Rafael Diaz from just inside the box.

Najem’s second contribution was even more magical. He collected the ball about 25 yards from goal in the 57th minute. Teammate Santi Moar made a central run, and Najem sublimely chipped a pass over the heads of the New York back line. Moar’s finish was beautiful in its own right, a first touch volley over Diaz’s head into the back of the net.

For Najem, his brilliant day is all the more sweet because of the opponent. Playing on the campus of Montclair State University, the midfielder was just 10 minutes from his hometown of Clifton, N.J. Najem was a product of the New York Red Bull’s academy before spending four years at the University of Akron. After graduating, he qualified as a homegrown player but could not agree to terms with the club. Earnie Stewart stepped in and surrendered a 2018 second round draft pick to acquire the talented prospect.

It’s an interesting question of what could have been. Najem’s parents were in the stands, but their allegiances were split. David Najem, Adam’s brother, started at right back for the home side.

A look to the future

When Stewart acquired Najem, he also acquired his homegrown rights. It’s a weird MLS quirk, but it prevented the midfielder from being eligible for the 2017 MLS Superdraft.

After scoring 33 goals and tallying 29 assists in 87 games at Akron, scouts projected Najem would have been a high first round pick. It highlights a value move, bringing in talent disproportionate to the cost of the second round pick.

It’s talent the Union desperately need.

Jim Curtin has deployed Alejandro Bedoya, Roland Alberg, and Ilsinho as his no. 10 so far this season. None are natural fits.

Bedoya, for all his hustle and grit, is not the central attacking midfielder this team needs. His best position, as he said himself, is as a box-to-box playmaker at the base of the 4-2-3-1.

Alberg can generate goals, but not for others. He can score– well, he could score. If the Union deployed a system that incorporated a second striker, the Dutchman would be solid fit. Unfortunately for both him and the club, Alberg lacks the creativity and vision to consistently open up the game for others.

Ilsinho, Curtin’s most recent attempt to fill the position, has yielded the best results. Those results, though, are mixed. The Brazilian has little experience as a no. 10. He is primarily a wide player with the ability to cut inside. His creativity and flair are generally traits of elite attacking midfielders, but his unfamiliarity with the role is evident.

In Bethlehem, Najem has often been deployed in a similar position to Bedoya. This is more to do with coach Brendan Burke finding creative ways to field a starting 11 with both Seku Conneh and Cory Burke on the field.

Najem’s best fit, though is at the no. 10.

He is also the only natural no. 10 in the Philadelphia organization.

Najem may be the solution sooner rather than later. Curtin is running out of both options and time. With the Union struggling, youth is a definitive avenue to explore. Despite his age, Najem has more experience operating at the tip of the midfield triangle than every other option.

Najem is going to get his shot with the Union. It’s now a matter of when, not if.

Previous Winners

6 Comments

  1. There is 0 reason not to give Najem a try at the ten. It’s a shame we didn’t see him there against Harrisburg.

    We suck, we have no 10, and the team is floundering. These are the types of chances we need to take to rescue a falling team.

    • You did not see him there against Harrisburg in the USOC because 2 days later he was scheduled giants Red Bull’s 2 in NJ.
      .
      Dollars will get you donuts that he is on the pitch in Harrisburg tonight, although I am only guessing. He has been part of the starting team in the current run of good form and good results. He went only sixty or so Friday night, both to give Anthony Fontana some game conditioning and to reflect the nearness of tonight’s Harrisburg game.

  2. I’m done with Alberg. His flashes of brilliance are marred by a lack of movement, no defense and a dearth of critical passing. Bring on Najem.

    • Alberg has never, ever been a #10, and playing him there has been foolish from the get-go. You might as well play Oguchi Onyewu there. That’s about how well Alberg fits in the CAM slot.

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    If a guy like Epps can earn a spot and I like him… I don’t mean that to be a knock on him… surely Najem has earned his chance to show what he can do. It’s not like we are overflowing with #10’s

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