Sam Hooper, Contributing Writer
Saffeya Ahmed, Managing Editor
Former Men’s Soccer star Siad Haji is now the highest drafted Ram in VCU Athletics history, selected second overall by the San Jose Earthquakes in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft Jan. 11.
“The first time I saw him play, it was obvious that he was a very talented young man,” coach Dave Giffard said.
Haji signed a deal with Generation Adidas, a joint program between MLS and U.S. Soccer that allows the nation’s top college underclassmen to enter the draft early and start their professional careers. These players do not count against the team’s salary limit and they can later sign senior player deals. Haji is the second Ram to sign with Generation Adidas after Jason Johnson in 2013, who currently plays for Phoenix Rising FC.
“Not a lot of kids get this opportunity and just being here is just a blessing … I’m just short of words,” Haji said in a post-draft interview. “New city and just ready to work hard … meet the new fans, meet the coaches.”
During the 2017-18 season — Haji’s junior and final year at VCU — he posted five goals and 10 assists in 18 starts to help the Rams obtain an Atlantic 10 regular season championship. Haji played as a right wing for many VCU games, where Giffard said he’d be successful.
“His excellent technique is his greatest strength,” Giffard said. “He’s best as a wider playmaker.”
Following his final season with the Rams, the 19-year-old winger was named A-10 midfielder of the year and a first-team All-American by TopDrawerSoccer.
“If he reaches his potential, I think he can be one of the elite players in the league,” Giffard said. “I’d love to see Haji play anywhere that they believe in him and can nurture his ability.”
After signing with the Earthquakes, Haji tweeted about his excitement. “Thank you @sjearthquakes for believing me,” Haji tweeted on the day of the draft. “I can’t wait to get started and work hard.”
— Abdulkadir Haji (@haji_szn) January 12, 2019
Haji’s draft with San Jose is not his first taste of professional play. The Kenyan refugee played for U.S. national teams, including the U15, U17 and U19 divisions.
“I’d like to see him learn to take more risks in the final third and increase his awareness of what’s behind him at all times,” Giffard said. “We couldn’t be more excited for him as he starts the next chapter in his journey.”
Haji will travel to San Jose, California Jan. 21 to begin training with the Earthquakes before the preseason starts Jan. 24 in Cancún, Mexico.