Philadelphia Union midfielder Adam Najem made his MLS debut in April against New York City FC, and has continued to grow as a player since.
In the team’s Open Cup Round of 16 match against New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, Najem impressed the Union’s coaching staff for his efforts to step up on the pitch. Despite the Union’s loss in penalty kicks, Head Coach Jim Curtin said Najem played exceptionally well.
“He got us out of a lot of tight spots,” Curtin said. “I think we were at our most dangerous when he was on the field in terms of in waves of us going at them, really pushing the tempo of things, turning them over, winning balls. I’m happy with his performance.”
Najem was substituted in for Derrick Jones in the 82nd minute, where he played 38 minutes as the match went into penalty kicks. Najem had one key pass, while pitching in with four recoveries, one tackle, one interception and one blocked shot.
Curtin said MLS rivalry games are high intensity, and creates teachable moments for young players on the field. Najem was one of those players who stepped in and thrived in the match.
“Adam is a darn good soccer player,” Curtin said. “We’ve played him out of the 10 spot for sure in that situation. It’s a unique one, we’re chasing the game we’re down a goal, so we went a little more proactive and went with an offensive move in Adam. He can do it from a deeper spot, he’s comfortable, he did that in college.”
Curtin said the Union has several good young players, and Najem is a part of that core group. Najem leads the Union's USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel FC, in assists. He’s continued to improve his skills while playing with Steel to earn minutes on the field as a first team player.
“He’s been a guy we’ve challenged now to impact the Steel games more in terms of getting assists and goals,” Curtin said. “We all see him play in tight spaces and his ability to keep possession is excellent. But then the next challenge is to impact the game with a final pass and do a good job in and around the goal. He did that, he got assists and goals in Steel games. The next step is to trust him in a game of magnitude.”
Najem will have his first chance to do so when the Union takes on New England Revolution Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium with kick-off slated at 5:00 p.m on FS1.