David Najem signed with New York Red Bulls II on May 19, 2016, and made his debut two days later against FC Montreal. For the 24-year-old, signing with NYRB II almost 10 years after joining the Red Bulls Academy at age 14 and playing in Europe marked a homecoming.
“You hear a lot of guys saying how proud they are that they’ve signed for their homegrown team and it holds true for me too,” Najem said. “Week in and week out watching the Red Bulls play and wanting to get on that field, being able to train with those guys…it’s something you can’t really put into words. It’s just a feeling you get from being around the organization, seeing the work the guys put in, you put in, the results and it’s nice to be a part of it officially.”
Najem, a native of Clifton, N.J., played high school soccer at Paramus Catholic and was a member of the Red Bulls U-16 and U-18 teams. In 2009, he was named the NSCAA New Jersey High School Player of the Year and adidas/NSCAA First Team All-America selection. He later went on to play three seasons with the Red Bulls U-23s during college.
“Back when [the academy] started it was one of the best places to train, it was one of the best organizations in the country and I think you can still say it’s true today,” Najem noted. “To see how it’s progressed and to see how I’ve progressed, it’s very nice to see that.”
The midfielder played his college soccer at Columbia University, where he was a four-time All-Ivy League selection, including first team honors as a senior. His attacking ability even earned him Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year accolades by College Sports Madness.
Najem graduated early in December 2013 and finished with 64 appearances for the Lions, totaling 10 goals and 11 assists.
After much consideration, the Red Bulls Academy product decided to pursue an opportunity overseas with FC Eintracht Bamberg 2010 in Germany.
“It was a fitting option for me,” Najem said. “Following school I wanted to graduate early, I wanted to get some experience internationally, not only that, but culturally it was really interesting and that’s the type of person I am. I like to get first-hand experiences and gain all the knowledge and experience I can moving forward and I was able to do that while mixing in my football, which was really important for me.
“I think I gained a lot from the 18-20 months I was there. Whether it was finding myself personally or benefiting myself individually on the field…I grew overall as a person so I think it was a very important time for me.”
After two seasons in Bamberg, Najem returned home to New Jersey, eventually joined up with Red Bulls II. Despite a few years of physical separation with the club, Najem admits that he always kept in touch with former Red Bulls coaches and remained close with the team.
“The organization has always been good to me and my family,” Najem said. “My brother’s been a part of this organization since he was a kid as well so I mean they’re just great with us and I’m really happy with the type of relationship we have with all of the guys. They’ve all been so great to me and my family.
“I’m always really happy to get in touch with them or when they reach out to me, whether I was here or not, whether we move on from here or not. I think it’s nice to call this home and a family for sure. It’s just a testament to how great the relationship that I have and we have with this entire organization.”
After all these years, growing up through the academy, graduating college and playing abroad, Najem is ready to make a splash with his hometown club.
“The guys around here, the guys in the office, the coaches – they’ve seen me grow, I’ve seen them grow and it’s nice. It’s give and take around here and I think I’ve learned a lot from the organization going forward and it’s nice to be back and bring it all together.”
Catch David Najem and New York Red Bulls II take on Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday, May 28 (WATCH: NewYorkRedBulls.com/Live). NYRB II faces the Riverhounds at 10 p.m., after the New York Red Bulls face Toronto FC in MLS action at 7 p.m.
Admission to the Red Bulls II match is available to fans with tickets to the MLS match.