Sporting Director Earnie Stewart and Head Coach Jim Curtin have lauded the youth movement within the Union franchise, from the first-team all the way through the Academy. One of those youthful players who will be an important part of the Union's future is Adam Najem.
Najem joined the Union during the team's preseason after a trade with New York Red Bulls before the start of the 2017 season. The Union acquired Najem and his right of first refusal from Red Bulls in February, and Najem signed with the Union shortly after.
After earning some playing time with the team during the preseason, Najem started the season down with Bethlehem Steel FC, where he played as a No. 10. Najem started six consecutive games for Steel FC, starting with the team's season opener. Also during that stretch, Najem made his first appearance with the Union, subbing on in the team's match against New York City FC.
Najem's start streak with Bethlehem ended when he appeared in the game day 18 for the Union from May 13 through May 20. He returned to Bethlehem Steel, where he immediately made an impact for the USL side.
In the three games following his return from the Union, Najem recorded a goal and two assists while playing as a central attacking midfielder, including a goal and assist against New York Red Bulls II. In his next game against NYRB II, Najem once again assisted on a Steel FC goal.
Najem returned to the Union in the team's international friendly against Swansea City AFC, where Najem played in the second half. He then found the pitch again, coming in for relief against Montreal.
On July 22, Najem recorded his first MLS start when he played as the No. 10 against Columbus Crew SC on the road. He played the full 90 minutes for the team and completed 87 percent of his passes, including two key passes. Najem earned his third consecutive appearance for the Union when he came off the bench against Columbus on July 22. Najem saw the pitch for the final time with the Union against San Jose, where he played for 11 minutes.
Following the match against San Jose, Najem returned to Steel FC, where he closed out the season as an important cog in the playoff push. Najem started in 10 of Steel FC's final 12 matches, where he recorded one goal and three assists during those matches. Najem also started for the team's first-ever playoff game at Louisville City FC.
In his first professional season, Najem appeared in five matches for the Union, one of which was a start, and played more than 150 minutes with the team. But much of his impact was felt in Bethlehem, where Najem started all 23 games he appeared in.
With Steel FC, Najem played more than 1900 minutes, scoring two goals paired with eight assists, the latter setting a record for most assists in a single season for Bethlehem. His season passing accuracy was 82.2 percent, had 37 key passes, completed more than 700 passes throughout the course of the season.
Najem earned valuable minutes in his first professional season, and answered the call for both Steel FC and the Union when needed. He made significant offensive contributions while adapting to the professional game in USL, and chipped in when needed with the first-team. Heading into next season, Najem will continue to grow his game, and if he does so, he should see an increase in responsibilities, and hopefully, more playing time with the first-team.