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Cameron Harper departs Celtic for MLS

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The American youth international joins the New York Red Bulls.

Celtic v Hibernian - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images

Youth national team attacker Cameron Harper is leaving Scottish giants Celtic and joining the New York Red Bulls. The transfer, initially intended to be a pre-contract for a summer move, was first reported in January by The Athletic. He signed a “three-year contract with an option for an additional year,” spurning alleged interest from other Major League Soccer clubs.

“I have really enjoyed my time at Celtic,” Harper told CelticFC.com. “It has been a great experience. Of course, I’m very grateful for the offer made to me by Celtic too, but I wanted to go back to the US and take this new opportunity. Of course, it goes without saying, I wish Celtic nothing but success for the future.”

After being scouted with the U.S. U-16 squad at the IMG Cup, Harper joined the Celtic academy in 2018, opting for professional soccer over college. “I had to learn how to deal with all different kinds of pressure,” he told Top Drawer Soccer. “Playing against or with guys that, if you have a bad game, they are ready to take your spot… At Celtic you’re expected to win every game that you play. Having that mental toughness, you always need to improve and get better because you’re playing in these games where you can’t afford to have off days.”

In the midst of a COVID-induced roster crisis, Harper made his first-team debut in January. He started and played 61 minutes at striker against Hibernian, but has yet to feature again. Mainly a member of the reserves, his brace helped secure a 3-0 victory over Rangers in the City of Glasgow Cup.

Although the top of the Scottish Premier League to MLS is debatably a step down in prestige and quality, the transfer is a positive move for his career. Harper has struggled to break through at Celtic, only sporadically making the bench. The Daily Record reports he was “concerned about a lack of a pathway to the first team and was desperate to get more regular top-level football.” The Red Bulls present the opportunity for increased playing time, as the club has a reputation for youth development. Consistency is important for his future, at both the club and international levels.

Also eligible to represent Scotland, the California native has been a regular with the U.S. national team program. He appeared three times for the USMNT U-20 side and trained with the senior team. The ambidextrous “traditional winger” describes the experience as “pretty surreal” and enjoyed “learning how [Gregg Berhalter] wants to play.” If his playing time increases with the Red Bulls, it is likely that more call-ups will follow.

Is this a good move for Harper? Let us know in the comment section.