U.S. U20 National Team member and junior midfielder Siad Haji continues to make a major impact this season on the Men’s Soccer team. Haji had a team-high eight assists during his first year with the Black and Gold last fall and will play in the 2019 U20 Men’s World Cup in Poland.
This season, Haji led the Rams to two nail-biting wins as he scored the deciding goal in two straight matches, the first against Temple University Aug. 31 in a 1-0 win. Haji’s second game-winner came during a golden goal overtime period against Santa Clara University Sept. 2 to propel the Rams to their third straight shutout victory, 1-0.
When did you first start playing soccer and what was that experience like?
I started playing soccer when I was about five years old. The experience was amazing because I always played in the streets back in Kenya. I always had the ball to my feet at all times, and played every chance I got with my friends.
You played for the U.S. Men’s National Team at the U15, U17 and U19 levels. What did you learn from playing on those teams and playing with the best soccer players in the country?
Playing for the national team is an honor. Being able to receive such opportunity really helped my development as a player growing up. The experience playing with the best players in the country [means] you need to be physically and mentally [fit] every day to train. [The] speed of play is much faster and players are smarter on the ball in terms of choice-making and solving problems on the field. Being with the national team has helped me as a player to play faster, play smarter and staying engaged and giving your best at all times.
You played at New England College your freshman year before transferring to VCU. What’s the difference between the Division III level and the Division I level?
The biggest difference that I’ve noticed with [Division III] level to [Division I] is the speed of play and playing teams that always compete and find ways to win. In [Division I], you are playing the best players in the country, where most games are intense and fast.
Why did you transfer from New England College to VCU?
I transferred from New England College because my goal was to be able to play for a [Division I] school and be in an environment to be able to compete with top college players and also develop as a player.
Last year you were a key player throughout the regular season and the playoffs, leading the team in assists. What was that like, scoring regularly throughout the season?
Last year being able to come to VCU and make an impact was my goal. We, as a team, worked really hard to stay compact defensively and also to be able to work for each other for 90 minutes. Every guy on the team wanted to help the team win and that’s why we were successful.
You have earned accolades including Preseason All-Atlantic 10 and A-10 Offensive Player of the Week. Are those awards an added motivation?
Yes, I use these awards as motivation, but what’s more important to me is how we compete as a team and how we get results week-in and week-out. Getting better on areas that we aren’t good at during training and, most importantly, having fun and trusting the process.
What did it feel like to score those two game-winning goals that led to your being named A-10 Offensive Player of the Week?
The feeling was amazing, but being able to help the team and getting the three points was very important. [There is] still a lot to improve as a team, but we are willing to work hard and learn each day at training.