Like most upcoming talented soccer players, Jay Needham dreamed of playing in Major League Soccer ever since he was a child. Needham was born in Fort Worth, Texas where he began playing soccer at a young age. Throughout the years, Needham excelled on the field at the youth level and eventually went to South Methodist University to play in college. Coming out of college, Needham was constantly reminded that he would most likely be a high draft pick into Major League Soccer, but he ended up being drafted in the 3rd round by D.C. United.
Needham played very well in the preseason training camp at D.C. United and was very happy with the way things had started out for him there. After the camp, the coaching staff at D.C. United informed him that he had made the travel squad and could even be a potential starter, due to his good performances during camp. After all of the time and hard work that he put into achieving his goals, it seemed like his dream of playing in MLS had come true. However, in order to be a part of the team he would have to be under contract. Unfortunately for Needham, they could only offer him a developmental contract. Prior to the draft, Needham had made it clear to several teams who had shown interest in him that he refused to play under a developmental contract, which is why many people believe he wasn’t picked until the 3rd round.
With only a month to decide, Needham had to weigh out his options. Should he follow his dream and play in MLS or wait and hope that he finds a more beneficial contract? With the mentality to grow as a player and courage to never give up, Needham finally came to a decision. Due to the contract’s offerings, he decided to put his dreams of playing in MLS on hold as he turned down D.C. United’s offer.
Luckily for Needham, the Puerto Rico Islanders had contacted and shown their interest in him during his decision making process. The Islanders managed to sign Needham to a contract that was more acceptable to him financially and to provide him with a better opportunity as a player to develop. The defender was Rookie of the Year that season with the Islanders and played an important role in their success while he was at the club.
Needham transferred to play for Alta I.F. in Norway after his time with the Islanders. He played in Norway for two years and was captain of the team at only 24 years old. He led them to one of there best seasons and once again had a very important role in the club’s growth and success. Once his time was finished in Norway, he played one year for the Austin Aztex in 2010, and then returned to Puerto Rico for the 2011 and 2012 season.
The defender signed with the Rowdies on January 7, 2013, and is extremely happy with the club and what the NASL has to offer in regards to the high level of play. He is impressed with the development of not only D2 soccer, but also the continuous growth and love of soccer in general amongst the whole nation. He hopes that the level of play along with the popularity of the sport will only continue to develop as he looks forward to this season with the Rowdies.
“I’m incredibly happy with my choices as a professional,” commented Needham. “I enjoy the NASL because of where I’ve gone, what I’ve seen, people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had. I wouldn’t change my professional football experience for anything in the world. I’ve gotten to do pretty much everything I’ve wanted to do.”
Overall, Needham faced a very difficult predicament early in his soccer career and in his case may have taken the path less traveled. By continuing to believe in himself, working hard on the field, and never giving up, he still managed to live the life he had hoped for as a young child.
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