U.S. starlet Wright moves from Schalke to Venlo
U.S. youth international forward Haji Wright has secured a transfer from Schalke to Dutch side VVV Venlo, the Bundesliga club announced on Friday.
Schalke say they reached a collaborative agreement with Wright's new club. Wright had one year remaining on his contract and club sources say the deal includes a buy-back option.
The 21-year-old had been on the books of Schalke for four seasons, but found it difficult to break into the first team. Wright scored his first Bundesliga goal against Bayer Leverkusen back in December, but he made just seven league appearances during the 2018-19 campaign, scoring once, as Schalke finished 14th, just five points ahead of the relegation playoff spot.
"Having a taste of first-team action in December and January really motivated me and scoring my first Bundesliga goal vs. Leverkusen was one of my highlights during this time," Wright told ESPN FC via email.
Regarding the back half of the season, Wright added: "It was a really difficult period for me and it's a pity that I could not have ended my Schalke time on a more positive note."
Wright said he had no regrets about his time with Schalke, even as his first-team opportunities were limited.
"The last two years has taught me a lot as a senior professional," he said. "There have been some good times, but also a lot of challenges that I've had to deal with and fight to conquer -- but these years have matured me both as a person and as a player. There's never a 'bad experience' -- there are only moments that present great challenges and provide great learning opportunities once you overcome them."
Wright joins a Venlo side that were promoted to the Eredivisie ahead of the 2017-18 season. While they narrowly avoided relegation during that campaign, they consolidated their position last season, finishing 12th. Wright is hoping the move to Venlo, who have a new manager in Robert Maaskant, can help kickstart his career.
"The staff have been incredibly friendly and welcoming, a real family atmosphere," he said. "I also enjoyed meeting my new head coach, and I can't wait to start. I believe that opportunities that Dutch clubs give to young players will help me develop and reach the next level in my career as a pro footballer. I'm thankful for the opportunity that Venlo has given me and I aim to work to the maximum to repay their faith in me."
Wright is hoping the move will improve his international prospects as well. He was called into training camp for the U.S. national team prior to the Gold Cup, and later took part in a camp for the U.S. U-23 side that will eventually comprise the team hoping to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games.
"That was a fantastic feeling to be back in again at that level," Wright said about the training camp. "I tried to take in as much as I could during that camp.
"It's a really big year ahead for the senior levels of U.S. soccer, with the Olympic qualifiers and hopefully participation in the finals, as well as the kick off for the 2022 World Cup qualifications. With a 12-month schedule like that ahead, no player needs any additional motivation. I'm aiming to do the best I can and hopefully that will be enough for me to get the nod to play a role at both USMNT and U-23 level in the coming months."