David Najem’s first season with the New York Red Bulls was undoubtedly a success, the former Columbia Lion transitioning well to not just a new league but also a new position. Or two. Or three.
A highly-regarded product out of Clifton, New Jersey, Najem was recently a midfielder for Columbia where he was a four-time All-Ivy League selection, including being named the College Sports Madness Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year in 2013 as a senior. But a crowded midfield situation for the New York Red Bulls II team that plays in the USL meant that a position change was necessary for Najem if he wanted to see the field for a team that ended up becoming champions of the USL.
So while he played some centrally and a little bit as a wide player in the midfield, Najem found success and perhaps a starting position heading into 2017 as outside back for the USL team.
“I think that’s the thing, what it takes sometime to be a pro. There are obstacles in the way such as learning a new position, it’s about getting more into the game obviously,” Najem told Metro. “Me, having another position on the résumé, maybe getting more opportunities there, I’m OK with that.”
He's helped by the fact that the outside backs in the Red Bulls' scheme are asking to push forward and overlap, something very much to the liking of this former college standout.
Najem spoke to Metro several weeks ago prior to a clinic hosted by Jonathan Borrajo, a former New York Red Bulls defender who hails from Clifton. Borrajo, who now plays for Miami FC, is planning more events for the youth soccer community in the tri-state area.
Following his college soccer career in the Ivy League, Najem went on to Germany where he played in the fourth and fifth division with FC Eintracht Bamberg. After two seasons he came back to the United States with that experience under his belt and began to assimilate into Red Bulls II.
From there he had to handle a series of position switches, each time proving his versatility. He even played centerback in a pinch when needed late in the season. He will be back in 2017 with the USL team as he is looking to not only solidify his place on the squad but perhaps get considered for the MLS side.
“I’m looking forward to it, wherever they put me, I’m going to play my hardest,” Najem said. “Obviously whatever gets me into that first team and helping them, I’m just going to do it.”
He’s proving that right now with the Red Bulls in preseason as he is part of the MLS squad currently prepping in Tucson, Arizona. In Friday’s 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers, Najem was a second half substitute and played 42 minutes.