Plenty of young MLS talents have been linked with moves to Europe this year and Philadelphia Union midfielder Brenden Aaronson is one that will be officially on his way overseas in January.
Aaronson, who had been linked with Celtic, Anderlecht, and Hoffenheim throughout 2020, is officially moving to Austrian Bundesliga side Red Bull Salzburg after a transfer was completed on Friday. The Homegrown may only be in his second MLS season, but his rapid rise to a consistent first team player in Jim Curtin’s squad has caught the eye of several European clubs.
The Medford, New Jersey native is the latest MLS player to take his talents to Europe, joining fellow U.S. Men’s National Team teammate Reggie Cannon in leaving the team he began his career with. Aaronson’s ability in 2020 has been a positive sight not only for Philadelphia Union fans, but also for USMNT fans who remain excited over the current group of exciting talents coming through the ranks.
In 30 combined league appearances last season, Aaronson recorded three goals and two assists in the heart of Jim Curtin’s midfield. He’s continued his production for the club, reaching four goals and four assists in 21 appearances this season, while also making his senior debut for the USMNT back in February alongside teammate Mark McKenzie.
Aaronson was one of the top players at the MLS is Back Tournament for the Union, helping them reach the semifinals before falling just short against the Portland Timbers. He started every game including a 3-1 quarterfinal win over Sporting KC, a match which saw several European scouts tune in to watch the young talent go head-to-head with Gianluca Busio.
“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 postmatch of the tournament quarterfinal win. “When some players tend to shrink in the occasion, he tends to raise his level, and raise his game.
Leading the charge at Red Bull Salzburg is former New York Red Bulls head coach and USMNT player Jesse Marsch, who has begun his second season at the helm. Not only has Marsch been given a great opportunity in his first European managerial stint, but he’s continued the domestic success that Salzburg has in the Bundesliga.
Marsch became the first American manager to win a domestic double in Europe, claiming both the Bundesliga and Austrian Cup titles last season. He was able to work with now-Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland and Liverpool playmaker Takumi Minamino before also seeing Hee-Chan Hwang move to sister club RB Leipzig this summer.
Red Bull Salzburg also has a history of developing players with Sadio Mane, Valon Berisha, and Kevin Kampl just a few of current European players excelling both domestically and at the international level for their respective National Teams. For Aaronson, the move to Austria should provide him with an early crack at a higher level of competition and also allow him to work with Marsch in hopes of moving to a bigger league in the future.
With Salzburg aiming to continue its domestic dominance in Austria, there is also an opportunity of playing against some of Europe’s top competition in the UEFA Champions League after making the tournament’s group stage. Salzburg impressed in its UCL campaign last season, going toe-to-toe in a pair of group stage matches with Liverpool before also picking up wins against Napoli and Genk.
For now, Aaronson’s will also aim to win a first MLS Cup title with the Union this Fall, but also be able to play the second-half of the league season with Salzburg. A possible three trophies could come Aaronson’s way in the span of six months while there is also a chance for the midfielder to represent the USMNT at the Summer Olympics and World Cup Qualifying.
Red Bull Salzburg may not be the most glamorous name in European Soccer, but it’s an opportunity for Aaronson to grab first team minutes immediately and develop under a fellow American and former player.