Wednesday morning, the USMNT released the final 26-man roster for this month’s Concacaf Nations League fixtures. Eight players currently based in Europe were selected along with 18 MLS standouts – the Philadelphia Union’s Homegrown midfielder Brenden Aaronson included.
Flashback to the early stages of the 2018 Bethlehem Steel FC season. Union Academy youngster Brenden Aaronson began earning minutes alongside team-captain James Chambers as part of the normal pathway to pros progress ladder.
The very-much underweight creative midfielder was suiting up against grown men, some in their late 20’s and early 30’s. Injury was also a major risk. And injury struck Aaronson in 2018, a collarbone injury which forced an immediate ambulance ride from Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium after Aaronson received the worst of a 50/50 collision with an opponent.
The injury threatened to sabotage a promising young player’s development and potential opportunity at the coveted first team contract with Philadelphia. Yet Aaronson persevered. He rehabbed smartly and came back with more muscle mass in his upper body to withstand the physical aspects of pro level soccer.
Aaronson development rapidly increased in 2019. He inked his first professional contract with the Union in September of 2018 which became effective this past January. Aaronson trained with the first team in Florida in pre-season, earned a starting spot Week 1, and never looked back.
Since signing the pro deal, Aaronson appeared in 27 games while earning starting nods in 24 of those matches. With three goals, two assists, and over 1,640 minutes played, Aaronson is enjoying a very involved Rookie Year.
His production on the stat sheet and off of it – off-ball running and defensive ground coverage – has caught the eye of the rest of MLS as well. Aaronson is now listed as an AT&T MLS Rookie of the Year finalist with some calling on him as an early favorite to earn that respected honor.
Yesterday’s news is perhaps much more important than all the other positives Aaronson has provided this season. In previous conversations with the young midfielder, the opportunity to represent his home country has been an opportunity he’s coveted dearly.
Most recently, Aaronson earned a call-up with the USMNT U-23 squad where he emerged as a vocal leader and notably outperformed many during that camp. Prior to that, Aaronson was with the U-23’s in June and was with the U-19’s in January of 2018. His team within the USMNT system is about to pay off.
The Concacaf Nations League is a new venture, one that was designed in hopes of boosting the region’s international soccer competitiveness while providing each country with more opportunities for actual matches as opposed to a routine international friendly here and there. The top two teams from each group in the League will qualify for the 2021 Gold Cup, most recently played in Philadelphia.
Aaronson will hope to become the first Union player to ever earn a cap with the USMNT senior team when they take on Cuba next Friday and Canada the following Tuesday (10/15). For the Philadelphia Union organization, this is yet another opportunity for them to enjoy the fruits of their youth-movement investments.
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Mandatory Credit: US Soccer