Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson have both had impressive showings at the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament, helping the Union reach the quarterfinals of the competition and helping fuel speculation about potential moves to Europe.
McKenzie was recently linked with Scottish Premiership side Celtic while Aaronson’s name has been connected with several German Bundesliga clubs.
Union head coach Jim Curtin confirmed to reporters on a conference call Tuesday that there is interest in his young standouts, and made it clear the Union would be open to selling players if the right offers came in.
“It’s real, there is a lot of reports and media covering our top players,” Curtin said. “It’s always flattering to have some reports and interest in your young players and it’s no secret in our model is to now sell our first player to Europe.”
“Keeping Mark and Brenden specifically humble and hungry is the job of our entire technical staff. Their talent is there and if they continue to play the way they do I’m sure some real concrete offers will come in for them and if it’s the right time and makes the right sense for both sides then we may be making the transaction.”
McKenzie has flown up the Union’s centerback pecking order over the years, going from a rotational defender to lock starter. The 21-year-old has made 33 league appearances since debuting in 2018, coming back into the fold after a frantic 2019 campaign both domestically and internationally.
The former U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team captain also received his senior debut for Gregg Berhalter’s team in January, alongside Aaronson in a 1-0 win over Costa Rica. McKenzie admits the goals remain with the Union for now, but continues to dream of playing in Europe some day.
“It’s always a blessing to draw interest from clubs in Europe,” McKenzie said on a conference call. “As a kid, you dream at playing at the top clubs in the world and the Champions League.”
Aaronson broke through with the Union first team last season, grabbing a starting role in a talented midfield. The Medford, New Jersey native has 35 combined appearances over the past two seasons, scoring four goals and adding four assists.
Like McKenzie, Aaronson’s improvement as a first-team player has attracted USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter. He earned his senior debut in January as well and could also be a key part of Jason Kreis’ U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team Olympic Qualifying roster in March.
Both players will keep their focus on helping the Union try to win their first trophy in club history, but could garner more interest as the summer rolls on with continued individual improvement to their game.