The never-ending list of overseas American talent is continuing to garner first-team opportunities and Nick Taitague could be the latest this coming Bundesliga season.
Taitague was included in Schalke’s preseason this summer, looking to become the latest American player to feature for the Gelsenkirchen side. After making the move to Germany from the United States in 2017, Taitague has worked his way though the youth ranks at the club and now has a great opportunity to play a part in David Wagner’s squad this season.
“It feels great [to be included so far]. I didn’t have any problems settling in and was right into it straight away,” Taitague said in a club interview. “As a youth-team player I was accepted really well by the guys. They had all shown me that they were pleased that I was there. Despite the hard work in pre-season, I’m enjoying every day.”
Taitague has featured for Schalke’s Under-23 and Under-19 teams since moving from the U.S. while also battling back from injuries over the past two seasons. Despite making only five appearances last season for the U-23’s, Taitague was rewarded with a contract extension earlier this year from the club and has remained confident to reach his goals of playing for the first team.
“It was amazing [to earn an extension],” Taitague said. “The club have shown that they believe in me and see me as part of the team. I’m very grateful for that and want to repay the faith.”
“There were days when I did [doubt my ability],” Taitague said. “I would ask myself if I really have what it takes to play at the top level. But I am a positive person and always told myself that I would come back and that I can realize my dream. Giving up was never an option.”
He’s also been included in past first team camps for Schalke, alongside fellow American midfielder Weston McKennie, whom joined Juventus on loan last week, and former striker Haji Wright. Taitague is also playing a leadership role for younger American players Matthew Hoppe and Evan Rotundo, whom are taking a similar route he did in the past.
“Definitely [fellow American players have impacted me],” Taitague said. “Weston in particular became a really good friend of mine very quickly. Together with Haji, he was a big reason that I settled in so easily. The club was also always at my side and supported me.”
“I also traveled to training a lot with Matthew in the past few months so we got to talk a lot. We all support each other.”
Taitague’s versatility as an attacking player has also changed as he’s gotten older, being tossed into new formations and positions at the youth level. Even as a former U.S. Youth National Team player, Taitague has primarily featured in the heart of the midfield, but has since been used both higher and deeper since his move abroad.
“In the USA I played mostly in attacking midfield, and with Schalke U19’s I played in spells on the wing,” Taitague said. “With the first team, I’ve played deeper, as a centre midfielder and love going into one-on-ones. That is one of my biggest strengths.”
Taitague’s preseason with Schalke continues abroad before the start of the Bundesliga season on Sept. 18th at defending champions Bayern Munich. There has been no decision made by Wagner on whether or not Taitague will stay with the first team to start the domestic schedule, but the opportunity he’s been given this summer should provide plenty of confidence going forward.