Brenden Aaronson’s fame peaks ahead of USMNT’s biggest game

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CINCINNATI – As unbelievable as Brenden Aaronson’s starring turn in the football world is, this aspect is particularly incredible: it hasn’t even been 11 months since he left the Union to join Red Bull Salzburg.

During that time, he played 11 times for the United States National Team, including the Concacaf Nations League semi-finals and all six World Cup qualifiers to date, with two goals and two assists in those games. If you had to rank the team’s players based on the hype they get, Aaronson would be near the top.

During this time he played four times in the UEFA Champions League (and twice in qualifying) for Salzburg, and twice in the Europa League; and 37 times in Austrian national competitions.

Again, this has all been in 10 months and has changed. And no, the Medford, NJ native doesn’t quite believe it either.

“Going back and thinking about it is like crazy,” he told The Inquirer this week. “Seeing it in my head again makes no sense, almost, because it’s been such an upward trajectory. And also, I don’t really have time to think about it, you know, because then I always think about the next thing that I wanna do, the next thing that I wanna achieve, the next thing that I wanna do Following.”

He’s able, he said, to make sure he’s “right in the moment and enjoying each day playing the sport I love, and just enjoying where I am.”

But inside of that, Aaronson knows that the place he’s arrived at is special. He is one of the 12 American men in this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage, the biggest stage in world club football. And with the help of a lucky draw, Salzburg is on the verge of reach the round of 16 for the first time.

“When I’ve been to Europe there’s always a little doubt, in which you might be like, ‘Am I ready for this jump? Am I ready to start over and make a name for myself on the team? ‘ Aaronson said. “It’s crazy the impact I had there just being able to play. I can’t say enough about the club Red Bull Salzburg either. I was very lucky to be installed in two incredible places. It’s really amazing, and two clubs [Salzburg and the Union] who really believe in me.

READ MORE: The Inquirer’s first feature film about Brenden Aaronson, when he was 17 at the Union Youth Academy in 2018

As has been the case since Union sporting director Ernst Tanner was Salzburg’s top scout, the club are selling their best prospects for huge transfer fees every summer. This year it included two players Aaronson had grown close with: the forward Patson daka (for $ 33 million at Leicester City in England) and midfielder Mergim Berisha (for $ 5.5 million to Fenerbahçe in Turkey).

More importantly for Aaronson, US manager Jesse Marsch – who brought Aaronson to Salzburg after seeing him play for close friend Jim Curtin – has moved to RB Leipzig in Germany, the top club in the global football conglomerate Red Bull. . So Aaronson had to adapt to new teammates and a new boss, Matthias jaissle.

But he’s done pretty well, passing the eye test in just about every game he plays. And he has a great chemistry with a player who is one of Europe’s most promising prospects, 19-year-old German striker Karim Adeyemi. It will be the next Salzburg product to order a large sum, probably from German powers Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund.

“He deserves attention,” Aaronson said. “He’s an incredible player; he can do anything: he can run; he can shoot; he is a winger-slash-attacker. It’s a really great team that we have right now, and Karim is a baseball player and he deserves all the credit he gets. And he’s a great guy too. I’m happy for him, and we’ll see where he ends up going.

Aaronson is now set for a star-studded tour in the biggest game of his career yet, the United States Men’s National Team’s World Cup qualifying matchup with eternal rivals Mexico on Friday at the stadium. FC Cincinnati TQL (9 p.m., ESPN2, ESPN +, Univision 65 and TUDN). ).

While Christian Pulisic is still not fully recovered from an ankle injury suffered in the World Cup qualifiers on September 8 in Honduras, it is very possible that Aaronson will debut on the left wing against El Tri.

If that happens, or if Pulisic starts and Aaronson leaves the bench, it will be Aaronson’s first game against Mexico. And that will come in what is, for American gamers and fans, biggest game American men play apart from the World Cup itself.

“To be part of the roster and to be part of the qualifiers for the World Cup is crazy,” he said. “If you had to say this, I think, that I would be on this World Cup team and have the impact that I had in a lot of games – yeah, that’s really crazy. And it sometimes leaves me speechless thinking about it.

READ MORE: If you haven’t yet heard of rising American men’s football star Ricardo Pepi, now is the time to pay attention

Those long, curly locks that flew up and down the left wing at Subaru Park and Union training grounds in 2019 and 2020 are still here. But a player Union fans imagined to be eternally young is no longer so young. He turned 21 this summer and is now in his third year as a pro.

These locks are now a bit shorter and a bit more refined. (You can afford a premium barber when playing in the Champions League.)

Aaronson’s personality, however, is still so family and down to earth. And just like fellow South Jersey compatriot Carli Lloyd – who now lives in the same Medford neighborhood as Aaronson’s parents – Brenden plans to continue like this for as long as he becomes a globetrotter in the global game.

“I love representing South Jersey,” he said. “More male soccer players are from North Jersey, like Tab Ramos. … It’s different for a guy from South Jersey, and I think that’s something I’m proud of. I am proud of the city where I come from; I am proud of the way I grew up.

He thinks that somewhere down the road he will come home “to just have a house on the beach – that’s my dream”.

Maybe on Long Beach Island, he said, where he spent his summers with his grandmother. Or Cape May, where he also used to go.

READ MORE: Brenden Aaronson paid tribute to Carli Lloyd for his last USWNT game

For now, he watches the local football scene from afar, especially his younger brother Paxten. It was never a secret that Paxten, also a midfielder, would eventually break through with the Union, and Brenden knew that better than anyone. That moment has come this year. Brenden was delighted to see Paxten prosper.

“Jim [Curtin] knows how to handle young players, ”said Brenden. “I think he did a great job with Paxten – I think [Paxten] needed to be pushed a bit, and I think now you see him on the pitch and he’s just talking. I know how good he is because I have been playing since I was 6 and he was 3 he could barely walk.

Brenden admitted he couldn’t watch Paxten as much as he would like, as a 7:30 p.m. kick-off in Chester is a 1:30 p.m. kick-off in Salzburg. But Brenden eventually finds out what happened in the Union Games, and family celebrations always end on Instagram.

“I’m really proud and I know this is just the start for him,” said Brenden. “He loves the game. He’s going to keep developing and getting better and better, and I know he’s going to have a really great season next year – that’s what I’m predicting.

READ MORE: Union’s latest phenomenon Paxten Aaronson carries on a family tradition


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