Signing News

Union sign Adam Najem

Photo courtesy Akron Athletics

Philadelphia Union announced Wednesday afternoon that the team acquired the rights to and signed midfielder Adam Najem. To acquire Najem’s rights, the Union traded their second-round pick in the 2018 SuperDraft to the New York Red Bulls. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

“We are excited to acquire the rights to Adam and sign him as a member of Philadelphia Union,” sporting director Earnie Stewart said in a statement released by the club. “He is a player that has shown his abilities throughout his collegiate career and continued that this preseason. Adam is a player that provides depth for us and we are thrilled to see what he will bring to our club.”

A New Jersey native, Najem played his college soccer at the University of Akron. In four years with the Zips, Najem made 89 appearances, notching 33 goals and 89 assists. Najem earned the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year award in 2016 and was first-team all-conference all four years at Akron. Will Parchman at Top Drawer Soccer called Najem “college soccer’s best player” before the 2016 season.

On a conference call last Friday, head coach Jim Curtin praised Najem’s performance in training camp:

Yeah, he’s been excellent in training. He gets goals and assists, which I already knew about — you just have to look at his statistics to know that he can do that. He’s shown in the short time with us that he can do that at the MLS level. He’s been very strong in each and every training session, and actually has an ability to cover more ground and do the defensive work that we ask our no. 10 to do, even more so than I anticipated. So, high on him, hopefully, we’ll see what’s coming in the next couple of days.

Adam has done everything to show very well, has made it clear that he wants to be a Philadelphia Union player just by being here. Hopefully something can come of that in the coming days. But I’ve been very impressed. Good kid, humble kid, quiet, incredible work rate and ability around the goal to score and set up goals that is special. Guys that are in our league who’s not the biggest, you think of a Mauro Diaz — I think I described him at dinner the other day as a Mauro Diaz-Benny Feilhaber combo. Again, that’s getting ahead of ourselves, but you can kind of think of the attributes of those two guys with the similar size to a Diaz, for a young kid. Again, don’t say I’m calling him the next Mauro Diaz, because that’s a little fast. But he’s done very well, and for the people who maybe don’t know what he’s about, that would be a comp of skill sets that I see.

With Monday’s signing of second-round draft pick Marcus Epps, the Union now have 28 players signed to contracts with the first team. To sign a third goalkeeper, the Union will likely send one or more of their young players on a season-long loan to Bethlehem Steel FC to free up a roster spot.


  1. It appears they were able to sign every single player they identified. Time will tell how that works out, but you have to appreciate the hit-rate.

  2. OH SNAP!

  3. So apparently a 3rd keeper can occupy a 29th roster spot.
    News to me.

    • You mean MLS rules are confusing? Who knew?

      • Curtin just said they have 3 more spots to play with, which includes someone being loaned to Steel. So maybe the rosters have been expanded to 30.

      • Well then lets hope MLS releases updated roster rules for 2017. I’d like to see this phantom extra roster spot for a 3rd keeper Tenorio referenced OR the expanded slots Curtin referred to. My wish for greater transparency in MLS… still a long way from coming true

      • I think you can get extra spots for Homegrown players.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Have not done so in the past.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        To expand the roster to 30 would you not havto renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players union?

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        The Roster updates provided by the collective author MLS Staff all list 28 as the maximum.
        There are open roster spots on Bethlehem Steel’s USL roster.
        But without renegotiating the CBA the MLS roster size remains 28 I would be confident.
        Signing Onyewu means 5 center backs on the Union’s own roster. To my way of guessing, that means they take advantage of being allowed to send one player only on a season-long loan to their USL affiliate, season-long being different from the short-term recallable loans that were used so heavily last year.
        Sending Trusty to play his games for the Steel, provided he is allowed to continue to practice with the first team next to Onyewu, makes a great deal of sense to open the roster slot they will need next time Blake has international duty..
        They cannot sign one of the Steel keepers to a four day contract because those contracts do not allow for MLS league play, only open cup, Concacaf Champions League and exhibition play.

    • tannenwald wrote that there will be a new rule that says teams can have 30 players on their roster if at least 2 are homegrown

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        After just this morning listening to Jim Curtin’s full comments on the subject in the sound track of the conference call, it sure sounds like the rule may have changed.
        Don’t you just love signed deals that then change secretly.
        Not exactly “My word is my bond,” certainty.
        Perhaps the players association has not yet formally voted to accept, hence the secrecy? That’s pure speculation by me. It is definitely something in the interests of the players association because it adds potentially 44 jobs.
        It’s a good change. But secret rule changes do not create confidence that the competition is of equal fairness to all. Quite the opposite.
        But the teams will benefit.
        And full marks to those above who sniffed out the hints.
        Why I read this site, you learn stuff.

      • Oh yeah, MLS has gotten better at releasing stuff, but they are still terrible. It is crazy when a rule change happens like this though, although they also upped the TAM money last year after the agreement, so maybe there were things built into it or something. Who knows. I’ll take it though.

  4. Team is so well stocked now and should be prepared for any slip up/injury/failure to find form. Maybe not built to win, but built for a marathon.

  5. We still need that 3rd goalkeeper. Honestly to me we need a backup goalkeeper. Unless something changed with John McCarthy he is no backup keeper when Blake is on international duty or if he gets hurt. This I think was poorly over looked and could now be are weakest spot on the team.

  6. The way Curtin is talking about Najem, I’d say he’s a threat to make the 18 on a regular basis. This is, of course, without having seen him play ever at any level and based entirely on a few soundbites, so take that for what it’s worth. In any case, the depth chart at the 10 spot got much more intriguing. No particular order: Alberg, Bedoya, Najem, Ilsinho, Medunjanin (reportedly has played there in the past and can move up in a pinch).

  7. They have now signed enough new guys that even when some of them don’t work out — and there will definitely be some who don’t work out — we should still have plenty of squad depth.

    Given the talk from Alberg’s agent, and all these new faces, you have to wonder if he might be on a plane outta here soon.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      More recent comments have muted that idea, I’ve the impression.
      Alberg has played in both of the closed scrimmages and has assisted on two goals, one on a corner kick to Fafa Picault’s head, and one on a cross from play to C. j. Sapong’ s volleying right foot..
      Only future videotape will give us any idea whether he is better able to cover ground and defend in 2017.
      I would say patience, but this is Philly, and also I’m just as impatient as everybody else.
      These closed scrimmages are torture.

  8. Our roster runneth over.

  9. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Herbers, Rosenberry, Yaro, Najem, Epps, Derrick Jones, Trusty, Tribbett. Those are the 2nd years and the rookies on the first team, working out of my head.
    Everyone in the senior twenty is at least a three year veteran. Dan Walsh is spot-on with his observation earlier today.

  10. Trading a future second round pick for a player who likely would have been drafted in the first round this year? Sounds like a good move to me.
    While I hate giving anything to the Red Bulls, I understand that they wanted to get something for Najem after he refused to sign with them. Does anyone know what his contract will cost the Union? A second round pick plus how much per year? Is he getting more than a typical second round pick?
    He’s joining a crowded midfield, so he must know his playing time will be scarce. Unless he is excited to play for the Steel and develop under Brendan Burke? I think that will be where he gets his playing time this year. Perhaps a spine of Najem, Jones, and Trusty on the Steel bodes well for the Union over the next 2-3 years.

    • Red Bulls appear to be really deep at that creative, playmaking #10 spot. Union not so much. There’s really only Bedoya and Alberg, and both are not considered by many here to be perfect fits that role. I agree with Gonzhao above that Curtin’s praise indicates that it would be no surprise to see him make the 18 sooner rather than later.

      • I think it’s as simple if he shows well he plays. By all indications he’s got more play making ability than anyone beside Haris. Tribbett was a low-hyped signing last year and how many games did he end up playing. From Curtin’s own words he said he was surprised at Najem’s defensive covering. What has been apparent from Jim is that is you don’t do the work defensively you don’t play that much.

    • Think the deal was RB offered ~$55k last year, he thought he was in line with other HGPs around ~$80k. RB said pound sand, and so for a difference of ~$25k, we may have some attacking midfield depth.

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