Blogs > Union Tally

A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Despite family ties, lifelong Red Bull Najem's heart is in Philly

Midfielder Adam Najem, center, poses with Union sporting director Earnie Stewart,
left, and coach Jim Curtin after signing with the club last week.
(Courtesy of Philadelphia Union)
PHILADELPHIA >> A smile creeps across Adam Najem’s face when a scenario that he has clearly thought plenty about is presented to him.

Someday soon, whether while wearing a Bethlehem Steel or Philadelphia Union jersey, Najem could line up against the club of his youth, the New York Red Bulls (I or II). Opposite him on the field that day could be his older brother, David Najem, a 24-year-old midfielder for Red Bulls II.

“We grew up playing against each other all the time and having little one-v-one battles in our backyard,” Adam Najem said with a smile Monday after Union training under the bubble at Penn’s Dunning-Cohen Champions Field. “We’re always competing with one another. It’ll definitely be fun to see him competing on the other side of the field. I’m just glad he’s getting his opportunity, and hopefully he can make his way up from there.”

The potential of a brotherly matchup is just one oddity of Najem’s move to the City of Brotherly Love, sealed last week when the Red Bulls shipped Najem’s Homegrown rights to the Union for its natural second round in the 2018 SuperDraft pick.

It appears a tidy piece of business to add the 22-year-old attacking midfielder, who spent four seasons at the University of Akron and likely would’ve been a high first round pick had he entered the draft. Instead, with the Red Bulls holding his rights to sign or trade, Najem was excluded, forced to play a different kind of waiting game as his classmates learned their professional futures.

“I know it’s a business and everything around it is going to be complicated,” Najem said. “It was a little unsettling and I didn’t really know what was going on, but I’m sure guys in the draft had the same type of unsettling feeling. Everything happens for a reason. I just took it and was patient and thankful for Philadelphia Union for taking a chance on me.”

Najem surfaced at Union training camp on Day 1 as a “trialist” and drew plaudits from manager Jim Curtin from the start. In the native of Clifton, N.J., Curtin saw the talent that yielded 33 goals and 29 assists in 89 games for the powerhouse Zips, and the diminutive playmaker’s skills translated instantly to the professional practice field. Curtin drew cautious parallels between Najem and FC Dallas’ spritely playmaker, Mauro Diaz, one of the league’s best.

The 5-foot-8, 150-pound Najem enticed the Union as a depth option at the No. 10, where the Union are relatively thin – Alejandro Bedoya is the presumptive starter, with Roland Alberg as a proto-backup/super-sub.
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Monday, February 13, 2017

Union training notes: Under the bubble, Feb. 13

Union defender Josh Yaro, right, is facing three to four months out
after surgery on his balky right shoulder. (File)
The Union took a brief hiatus in their Floridian preseason to return home and regroup before recamping in Clearwater for the final phase of the preseason. After three days off, the Union snuck in a session Monday morning under the Bubble at Penn Park’s Dunning-Cohen Champions Field ahead of a travel day Tuesday. A few takeaways:

- Mostly it was notable for the absences. Jay Simpson, Oguchi Onyewu, Eric Ayuk and Chris Pontius were among those not taking part in practice. Additionally, Maurice Edu (leg) was continuing his rehab with the medical staff in Chester, while Josh Yaro was in attendance, his right arm in a sling after shoulder surgery last week that will sideline him three to four months.

- Also with the team but back in Chester was new midfielder Haris Medunjanin, who took a physical Monday. Manager Jim Curtin said that the Bosnian could’ve trained, but it was wiser to wait for his first Union practice to be on grass in Clearwater rather than frigid Philly turf. Medunjanin was also getting a tour of the facilities for the first time, which Curtin said left him impressed compared to recent stays in Spain and Israel.

- One player on the turf was Brian Carroll, with whom the Union have been cautious given a history of plantar fasciitis, which is easily exacerbated on artificial surfaces. Carroll played as a neutral in 7-v-7 short-sided games, eschewing the running off to the side that others did.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Back with Union, Rosenberry ready to grow from U.S. camp experience

Though disappointed not to get a cap, Union right back
and MLS All-Star Keegan Rosenberry is grateful
for the chance to be in camp with the U.S. National Team
in January. (AP).
PHILADELPHIA >> The setting under the bubble at the University of Pennsylvania’s Dunning-Cohen Champions Field Monday, barely dodging intermittent snow squalls, seemed about as far away from sunny California as one could be.

Regardless of the differing climes, the work rate didn’t change Keegan Rosenberry. Whether competing with members of the U.S. National Team or his Philadelphia Union teammates, the approach seemed constant from the second-year pro.

That degree of consistency is vital for Rosenberry, who’s undergone a whirlwind 13 months, the latest step being the national team call-up from manager Bruce Arena. Rosenberry’s camp ended without a cap, the right back among a handful of players from the 30-plus man squad returned to their clubs ahead of last Sunday’s friendly with Serbia. (Graham Zusi, the converted midfielder, played the full 90 at right back in what appears to be Arena’s experiment du jour, while healthy-again Greg Garza of Atlanta United and debutant Jorge Villafana split time on the left.)

Despite a pang of disappointment, Rosenberry is drawing positives from a significant milestone.

“It was a good experience,” Rosenberry said. “I was happy to be out there. Very honored to get the call and to be a part of it. Obviously disappointed not to be involved in the friendlies, but I think they’re in an interesting situation going into March with the friendlies. I just use it as motivation going forward.”

It was just a year ago that Rosenberry was the rookie in Union camp, the result of a Homegrown Player claim denied by MLS and the Georgetown alum rocketing up the SuperDraft board to bed plucked at No. 3. In the last year, he’s earned an MLS All-Star Game nod, set an unbreakable record as the only rookie to play every minute of a 34-game season and finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting while winning the league’s Fair Play Award … all while helping the Union make their first playoff appearance since Rosenberry was a high schooler playing on the nascent academy squads.

It’s no wonder that Rosenberry appeared on Arena’s radar, particularly at a position in which Arena’s predecessor, Jurgen Klinsmann, exhibited precious little consistency of selection.
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