CHICAGO, Ill. – On Friday, Manchester resident Siad Haji became the second overall pick in the 2019 Major League Superdraft, selected by the San Jose Earthquakes.
Born in Somalia, Haji and his family immigrated to the United States in 2004 from Kenya before settling in New Hampshire.
A Central High School graduate, Haji played for several club and professional developmental teams before heading to Division III Norwich University in Vermont.
Eventually, he transferred to New England University in Henniker, helping the Pilgrims to their first North Atlantic Conference men’s soccer championship in 2016.
Haji transferred again to Virginia Commonwealth University, leading the Rams with eight assists in 2017 while scoring two goals in the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament.
He improved a year later, starting all 18 games he appeared in, finishing the season with five goals and 10 assists.
“Growing up, I wanted to score goals, but I see myself as a connector. That guy that makes the final pass,” he said in an interview with ProSoccer USA. “More and more of a playmaker, that’s what I see myself as.”
VCU Head Coach David Gifford compares him to less developed version of Darlington Nagbe, the Liberian born midfielder that grew up in Ohio and eventually became a cornerstone for the MLS Portland Timbers and Atlanta United, playing just under 20,000 minutes over the last seven seasons.
“In the next two or three years, he could grow like a young kid. He has such capacity to improve in that way, especially when he feels like he has some things to do,” said Gifford in an interview with ESPN.
Haji also gained selection into the Generation Adidas, a program designed at helping talented young American soccer players by guaranteeing off-season college scholarships for players who leave college teams early to play professionally.