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Report: Hearts sign New York Red Bulls Academy prospect Wojciech Gajda

Best of luck, Wojciech. Handle him with care, Hearts.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

A report in the Edinburgh Evening News advises Scottish Premiership side Hearts has signed New York Red Bulls Academy prospect Wojciech Gajda.

Earlier this year, the 18-year-old 'keeper was reported to have committed to Stony Brook University, but clearly the opportunity to get started on a career as a professional player was too good to refuse. The Edinburgh Evening News reports Gajda has joined Hearts' U-20 squad on amateur terms, but is expected to sign a pro contract in the January transfer window.

Gajda has popped up on NYRB II rosters over the past couple of seasons, slotting in as a back-up 'keeper on occasions when the Red Bulls' reserves were short-handed. But RBNY currently has a traffic jam at the goalkeeper position. The club had four 'keepers on pro contracts in 2016: Luis Robles, Kyle Reynish, Ryan Meara, and Rafa Diaz (signed to NYRB II).

Three of those men are stuck behind club legend Robles, who has been the first team's undisputed first-choice in goal for so long he has set a league record for consecutive games played. It will be a minor miracle if all four 'keepers are still with RBNY next season, since all (except Robles) could reasonably expect a promotion from their current role in the squad, and there simply isn't room - even in two squads - to accommodate the starting ambitions of four goalkeepers.

But even if RBNY loses a 'keeper or two in the off-season, the team's (amateur) U-23 squad is probably a better predictor of the next man in line for a roster spot than the Academy's ranks. Indeed, the last goalkeeper signed straight out of the Academy by RBNY - Santiago Castano - was released in 2016 without ever making a first team appearance in any competition in three seasons.

Understandable, perhaps, that Gajda took his chance with a different club.

We don't know, of course, whether RBNY was even interested in adding Gajda to its pro ranks. We can assume, however, that Hearts snapped up their latest youth recruit without having to throw the Red Bulls anything by way of compensation. Such is the nature of player development in US Soccer.

If Gajda is successful - and Once A Metro hopes he is, not least because his success will reflect well on RBNY's Academy - he will go down as yet another one-that-got-away.

But a good youth development system should produce more potential pros than its parent club can handle, so Gajda's jump to Europe can also be viewed as a positive: the Academy continues to nurture professional-grade talent. If RBNY's pro rosters can't find room for all of them, we can simply hope the club is at least able to find room for the best.

H/T u/irishstevenj over at r/rbny