Scouts from across Europe tuned in to Thursday night’s MLS is Back Tournament quarterfinal between the Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City to see some top young American talent on display. Not every youngster in action impressed, but Brenden Aaronson made the most of the spotlight, showing once again why his stock is soaring right along with the stock of the Union.
Sergio Santos was the star of the night for the Union, recording two goals and an assist, but Aaronson’s confident display in midfield, capped by a jaw-dropping assist to make the score 3-0 on the way to a 3-1 victory, cemented his status as one of the most exciting young prospects in the American talent pipeline.
“Brenden, I thought was dominant,” Union coach Jim Curtin said of Aaronson. “He was active. His movement off the ball to find space was really good. The ball he plays on the third goal, that’s a top ball in any league. In any league in Europe that’s a pass that not many people see. His confidence is very high right now.”
“Sergio’s commitment to get in the box is always there,” Aaronson said of his assist to Santos. “I think it’s just finding him. He made a great run back-post and it was just up to me to find him, and that’s my role on this team. I want to get assists for them, and try to help them out as much as I can (with) scoring goals.”
Multiple reports have linked Aaronson to interest from European clubs, including Bundesliga clubs, and with teammate Mark McKenzie also being pursued by European suitors, along with Sporting Kansas City’s Gianluca Busio, it was Aaronson who stood out the most among the top prospects on display on Thursday.
“There were a lot of eyes on tonight’s game with all the other leagues being pretty much finished up right now, and a good showcase for our young players,” Curtin said. “When some players tend to shrink in the occasion, he tends to raise his level, and raise his game.
“I don’t know how long I’ll get to coach him for, how much longer, but I’m going to enjoy every day,” Curtin said. “He’s going to continue to push and try to get better.”
The 19-year-old playmaker is well aware of the growing interest in his services, but he has tried to stay focused on the Union’s tournament run, which now has them into the semifinals.
“I’ve seen some of the stuff going around, but I don’t really like to pay attention to that stuff because I’m in a tournament and I want to play the best that I can and that stuff can get to young kids, but it didn’t for me,” Aaronson said. “I just went out and tried to play my game, I didn’t worry about that kind of stuff. All I wanted to do was win for the team and help my team win.”
The Union were an underdog heading into Thursday’s match against Sporting Kansas City, but the resounding 3-1 victory should earn the Union more respect and consideration as a title contender. Given the team’s confidence, and Aaronson’s form, the many scouts keeping tabs on the Union playmaker just might bear witness to a title run.
“I think right now the team’s very high confidently, and I think that as a team we’re playing at a high level and we’re grinding out results,” Aaronson said. “Like Jim said, we still haven’t hit our 90 minutes of playing great soccer, but in the conditions that we’re playing in it’s pretty tough and we’ve been really, really good as a team.
“It’s just been a really good experience for the team. We’ve been winning a lot of games and we want to keep going with it and win this tournament.”