After two years of playing his trade across the pond and with his contract with Norwegian side Hamarkameratene set to expire, Jonathan Borrajo had visions of doing what he loved back home near his family.
"If I was going to come back home, I wanted to be on the East Coast," the New York Red Bulls' new signee told reporters in a conference call on Thursday, "but more likely than not, I wanted to be with the Red Bulls. I wanted to be home. I wanted to be around my family. And there’s no better place to be than New York."
After all, the 24-year-old defender’s ties with club are quite strong. Borrajo developed in the Red Bulls Academy before going on to play collegiate soccer at George Mason University, where he had a distinguished four-year career.
From there, Borrajo joined USL second-division side Real Maryland Monarchs in 2009, where he again impressed, and in 2010 latched on to HamKam in the Norwegian second division, making 36 appearances at right back, a position where Barrajo hopes to make the transition with the Red Bulls first team.
“I’m an attacking-minded outside back, I’m more like the modern fullback,” Borrajo said of his style of play. “I like to get up and down the wing, put a lot of crosses in and fly up and down the pitch. I’m a good one-v-one defender and I think I’m a good reader of the game.
“I’m just a hard-working guy willing to put myself on the line when it has to be. If I could compare myself to two players, maybe like a Stevie Cherundolo type or a Philip Lahm, [who] is someone I’ve always looked up to.”
Borrajo first caught New York head coach Hans Backe’s eye this past fall, when he played in a reserve game for the Red Bulls against D.C. United. His solid performance earned a conversation about his future with the coach afterwards.
With an offer to return to HamKam and other interest from other Scandinavian clubs, Borrajo instead signed a deal with the Red Bulls that will keep him with the team through 2015. He’ll have to compete with current fullbacks Jan Gunnar Solli and Roy Miller for playing time, but his arrival will provide some much-needed depth for the Red Bulls.
His desire to stay close to home, to watch his brother Joe play at Division III powerhouse Montclair State University, and to join the team he supported as a child made the decision to return to New Jersey an easy one.
“It’s a dream come true,” Borrajo said. “I grew up around the area and the MetroStars, I used to come to games as a kid with my family and went up through the MetroStars and Red Bulls Academy. It’s a dream come true. Hard work pays off and I’m glad to be here.”