Schalke striker Haji Wright believes that the Bundesliga provides the best possible environment for the likes of him and fellow American Weston McKennie to further their development.
USA international McKennie had earlier played a key role in the same game - setting up the winning goal for Daniel Caligiuri - and Wright feels that both players are in the perfect place to hone their skills.
“I just think the Bundesliga is the best league to help grow young talent because they have such great confidence in their coaches and their players,” he told Fox Soccer before the Matchday 18 fixture. “They give the young players the time they need so that they can grow into better players.
“Schalke’s a huge club - one of the most well-known worldwide,” Wright continued. “I try to just forget about the pressure, forget about the fans and everything behind it, and just play football. I hope to help build some more history.”
Watch: See how Wright got his first Bundesliga goal (from 00:49)
Wright moved to Schalke in April 2016, and the Los Angeles native has made the breakthrough in the Bundesliga this season after spending the 2017/18 campaign on loan at second tier Sandhausen. The USA youth international even scored on his second start for the club, finding the net in the 2-1 defeat against Bayer Leverkusen in December to become the eighth American to get on the scoresheet this term.
“It was a great feeling to score in front of the home fans, in front of the people that I’ve been fighting to play in front of for the last three years,” he said. “And I just hope for more moments like this.”
Teenager Josh Sargent is another attacker from the United States who has made his mark in the German top flight this season. Like his compatriot at Werder Bremen, Wright knows that he will have plenty more hurdles to overcome before he can become a first-team regular.
“[Being a striker] is a tough position to come through in but at the end of the day I just thought I wanted to be the best player I can be, and Europe is where I can figure out what level I’m at compared to players who are at a level I want to be at,” he said.
The former New York Cosmos youngster certainly has some good role models to look up to, with Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic and McKennie - who teed up Wright’s only Bundesliga goal so far – blazing a trail for the next generation of American players.
"I never imagined that that would be the way I’d score my first goal, being assisted by someone I’ve known since I was a little kid,” Wright said of fellow 20-year-old McKennie.
“He hasn’t said anything but I imagine in the back of his head he's like ‘yeah, it’s all me.’ The chemistry’s always been there between us and we’ve always known how the other one plays and moves. I think we’re confident in each other, and we know what we both can do on the field and I think it shows."