Haji Wright is no longer with the Schalke reserves or youth team. The 18-year-old American has been promoted to the first team for the club’s January training camp with an eye to staying there throughout the remainder of the Bundesliga season.
If you think back to last January, Christian Pulisic was given the same opportunity that Wright is being given now. He was one of Borussia Dortmund’s brightest young players and they moved him fully into the first team for midseason training camp. There, Pulisic had the chance to impress, which he did, and has been a regular first-teamer ever since, shining in the Bundesliga as well as the Champions League. Pulisic was so good that he made the jump to the United States national team before he turned 18 years old, playing at Copa America Centenario, becoming the Americans’ youngest ever goalscorer and being handed the keys to the attack in a World Cup qualifier against Mexico.
Now, Wright is not Pulisic and expectations for him are not to be the next Pulisic. That said, that he’s being given the same chance is indicative of the high regard Schalke hold him in and the opportunity is tremendous.
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“Haji Wright has the potential to achieve great things,” Schalke manager Markus Weinzierl told the club website.
“A training camp is always a good opportunity to test talented youth players and get to know them. He definitely hasn’t just traveled to make up the numbers. I’m not the kind of guy who would do that.”
And Weinzierl isn’t just making things up there. He’s added very few players to his first team for January so Wright really has stood out among his peers and Schalke have really struggled this season — especially in the attack — so there’s a chance for the American to stick. It’s not like he has to beat out many established first teamers in great form to get on the pitch in Bundesliga matches. There’s a window and if Wright can impress Weinzierl then he could very well be a first teamer from here on out.
The Bundesliga’s winter break offers young players an extraordinary opportunity. They can spend the fall continuing to develop with the youth team then jump to the first team midseason with confidence and form, but also a training camp to get adjusted and impress. Pulisic did it a year ago and now we’ll see if Wright can do the same.