U.S. Abroad: Wright joins Schalke 04 first-team camp

A year ago, Christian Pulisic joined Borussia Dortmund for winter training camp and soon was a regular in its first team. Now, Haji Wright, whom Dortmund was scouting when it first spotted Pulisic on the U.S. U-17 national team in 2014, gets his chance.

Wright, 18, joined Schalke 04's first team at its winter camp in Spain on Wednesday. The move comes after a strong fall season with the German club's U-19s for whom he scored six goals in 13 games.

Wright, who spent time in the LA Galaxy academy program, left U.S. U-17 residency in 2014 to train with Schalke 04, but FIFA rules prevented him from signing a contract until his 18th birthday. He played briefly for the NASL's New York Cosmos in 2015 and then signed with Schalke after he turned 18 last year. He scored two goals in his U-19 Bundesliga debut three weeks later.

Schalke coach Markus Weinzierl is high on Wright.

"I’m in close contact with U19s coach Norbert Elgert," he told the Schalke 04 Web site in an update on the camp. "Haji Wright has the potential to achieve great things. A training camp is always a good opportunity to test talented youth players and also to get to know them. He definitely hasn’t just traveled to make up the numbers. I’m not the kind of guy who would do that."

Schalke is without several first-team players. Nabil Bentaleb (Algeria) and Abdul Rahman Baba (Ghana) are preparing for the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. Spaniard Coke and Argentine Franco Di Santo are back in Germany, where they are recovering from injuries.

Schalke 04, tied for a disappointing 11th place after 16 games, will spend eight days in Spain. It will play Belgium's KV Oostende in a friendly next Tuesday. The Bundesliga resumes the weekend of Jan. 20-22.

Schalke 04 has a second American, former FC Dallas academy star Weston McKennie, on its U-19 team. Nick Taitague, another American youth star, is expected to sign with Schalke when he turns 18 this year.

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