Siad Haji moved to the United States at four-years-old and now potentially has a future as sizable as his flight from Kenya.
Haji is the second oldest child in a family which features his two brothers and three sisters. His parents originate from Somalia but birthed Haji and four of his siblings in Kenya before crossing the Atlantic.
Haji is among the youngest players at the draft but it is not something he is unfamiliar with. Despite being a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, Haji is just 19-years-old.
“It has sort of motivated me because it pushed me to do more,” Haji told SBI. “Being young I find it irrelevant because I grew up playing older guys. Whether it’s the park or indoor facility, just playing with guys five to ten years older than me has helped me mature in a game in terms of physicality and mentally.”
Playing with the older kids worked a charm for Haji who penned a Generation Adidas deal earlier this month. His five goals and ten assists in his final collegiate season was likely another factor which saw him earn the Generation Adidas honor.
While college soccer has its critics, Haji feels it was an important step in his career path.
“I think it prepared me to look at the game differently because every team has a way to win,” he said regarding how college affected him. “This team may not be good with passing but they have a big guy who can score up top. A team can be not skillful individually but they can defend as a group. It showed me different ways a team can come at you.”
After earning citizenship in the country he and his immediate family now lives in, Haji began playing with United States Youth National Teams.
His time spent with the U-15, U-17 and U-19 national teams gave him the opportunity to play with some of USA’s top prospects. Haji listed Chris Richards, Alex Mendez, and Christian Pulisic as some of his former teammates at the youth international level.
Former FC Barcelona superstar Andrés Iniesta is who Siad Haji quickly answered when asked who he modeled his game after.
“He’s not fast, man. He glides with the ball, he knows spacing, his touch is nice,” Haji said. “He knows what’s around him and he is aware of everything. I think that is who I try to model.”
While versatility is among the many traits Haji possesses, the former VCU player does have a preferred position.
“What feels like home for me would be right wing,” Haji opened with. “I understand my duties defensively and also just attacking wise.”
Haji is expected to be an early pick in the first round of Friday’s MLS SuperDraft and will be ready for whatever weather he is forced to play in.
“Cold,” Haji said with a chuckle while referencing his young days in New Hampshire. “[Now] I am used to it, I can go shiretless I am so used to it. Coming from Kenya it’s been really hot. Coming to New Hampshire I remember my ears hurting, and my hands hurting and I was scared. There were times I was walking to school and I couldn’t even make it halfway. I would come back crying because it was just that cold.”
Siad Haji adapted to the weather while in America and he’ll now be hoping he can adapt to Major League Soccer in similar fashion as he prepares for the start of his professional career.