USA youth international Haji Wright has added to his growing reputation by scoring four times in a pre-season friendly. Now the Schalke attacker is hungry to get more opportunities to impress his new manager Domenico Tedesco.
Getting a chance is one thing and seizing it is quite another, but the Los Angeles native looks to be on the right track after his exploits against SpVgg Erkenschwick. Wright was sent on as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s game against the German sixth-tier side and the 19-year-old ended up with four goals and an assist in the Royal Blues’ 9-1 victory.
“I’m happy that the manager put his faith in me and I got to play,” Wright told Schalke’s official website afterwards.
“I feel incredibly proud to have scored four goals. But I don’t want to talk that much about my goals. As a team, it was a good performance.”
Wright’s modesty is admirable but he will know that he is now edging ever closer to becoming an established Bundesliga footballer. He joined Schalke in April 2016 - two years after a trial at the club - and the former New York Cosmos player’s rapid development saw him earn a place on the bench for the first team’s final game of last season.
Wright also scored 11 goals in 24 league games for the Royal Blues’ Under-19 side last term before they lost to Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the German Championship. Norbert Elbert, his coach at that level, has backed him to push on again next season.
“I always describe Haji as a bag of surprises,” Elbert told Derwesten in June.
“He doesn’t have consistency in his game yet. However, he has a lot of pace on and off the ball, no weaker foot, his dribbling is good and he is a threat on goal. But he has to gain some muscle and has to learn more resolve.”
“If he takes his chance, Haji can become a big surprise. He is bringing a lot to the table that makes a good striker.”
Elbert said Wright could become a “really interesting player” if he continues to work on his game and the early evidence suggests he is doing just that.
“The more I train with the team, the more I feel like I belong,” Wright said after the win over Erkenschwick. “I really enjoy Domenico Tedesco’s training sessions. They’re hard but a lot of fun.”
Wright’s performance against Erkenschwick is sure to have given Tedesco food for thought. Introduced for Franco Di Santo at half-time - when Schalke were leading 3-0 - the giant frontman spun away from his marker to set up Atsuto Uchida’s second goal and his team’s fifth.
Eighteen-year-old McKennie – who played the full match – had laid on Wright’s first goal after 58 minutes and three minutes later he sent his compatriot racing clear to make it 7-0.
A double swiftly turned into a quadruple for Wright as a calm finish from inside the box and a header from a corner rounded off the scoring for the Royal Blues.
“I want to be improving every day in training and continue to perform well in order to put myself in the best position for selection,” Wright said afterwards.
“I’ve been working hard my whole life to become a professional footballer. It’s my dream to play for Schalke.”
Not just to play for Schalke but, as Wright told kicker after the game, to win titles. After netting four times in little over 15 minutes, those dreams are one small step closer to becoming a reality.