After Philadelphia Union midfielder Brenden Aaronson left the field at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Tuesday night, he received one of the best messages a young American player could receive.
Sitting in his phone was a text from his mother about a tweet sent out by U.S.men's national team legend DaMarcus Beasley, who came away impressed with his performance in the 2-1 win over Inter Miami.
"My mom actually sent it to me after the game. I got to see it right after. It was really an awesome feeling for me. It was awesome to see what he said about me," Aaronson said in a phone conversation Thursday. "I wish I could thank him. Just saying thank you to him would be a huge thing for me because it was awesome what he said. When young kids hear that, they just want to strive to do better. I think that was huge."
The progress Aaronson has made in his second Major League Soccer season can be attributed to the work he has put in with his father and brother Paxten, who has been training with the club's USL Championship affiliate Philadelphia Union II.
“Over this past break and the break during the winter, I put a lot of time on the ball with the amount of dribbling I did with my brother and my dad," Aaronson said. "I’ve been grinding for hours at a place that just opened up near my house. I think it’s huge for where I am right now."
Aaronson improved his on-the-ball ability while competing every day with his younger brother, who did not make life easy for the 19-year-old.
“Having my brother and dad help me is huge for my development. I’ve said it a lot in the past, the play that I’ve had with my dad and brother has been huge," Aaronson said. "My brother pushed me every single day. It’s not easy playing him 1v1 at all. He’s so quick and he’s such a good little player and the 1v1s that we play is huge. I think that has a lot to do with it and our competitive nature with each other. I think we pushed each other a lot over the break and he’s doing really well with (Union II). I want to keep hearing what he’s doing. It was a really big break for me and I feel like I put a lot of work in."
Although Curtin has been around Aaronson for most his soccer career, he was quick to credit the Aaronson family with the development of the Homegrown midfielder.
“When you talk about development of Brenden Aaronson, it starts with his family, it starts with his mother and father," Curtin said after Tuesday's win over Inter Miami. "I think a lot of clubs try to take credit for development, and obviously we want to make him better and use the things that he has, but it starts with his parents. He was coached by his father, pushed by his father. I’ve known the family now since Brenden was a 9-10-year-old at training sessions with Union Juniors."
Curtin has been one of Aaronson's biggest supporters and critics as he pushes on with his development.
“To see his growth is special," Curtin said. "A lot of people, a lot of coaches in the academy have played a role in it. He’s reached the heights of the national team now, but we want more because he is that special. I’m going to continue to be hard on him. He might not like hearing it, but I still think he can do better, even on a night like tonight. To play a little bit of a small role in his growth, it is fun to watch him improve. That should be the ultimate goal of any coach. Brenden has made a big jump, but I think there’s still another level he can go to."
“They’ve been like that since the time I got to the Union," Aaronson said of the coaching staff. "I know they’re going to keep doing it because they want the best from me and I understand that. I like how they keep pushing me to be better than what I’ve been doing. I know I can work on more stuff and I like that about them. It’s something that I can work toward and I really do like that. I want them to keep challenging me."
A year ago, the critique about Aaronson's game was that he needed to get stronger and have more of a presence on the ball and in the final third.
That led to Aaronson setting high goals for himself and turning into a more physical presence at the No. 10 position.
“I always set really high goals for myself. I did 10 goals, 10 assists. I felt like that was something I could at least get around. I felt like those numbers were big for me. That’s what I want to strive for, those types of numbers. Maybe even more assists than goals."
Aaronson has a goal and an assist in 2020. The goal was netted in the 3-3 thriller with Los Angeles FC in March and he produced his first handout on Kacper Przybylko's game-winning goal Tuesday night.
Although the goals and assists have not come in bunches yet, the praise for Aaronson's evolution has. While it would be easy for a 19-year-old to get caught up in the attention, he is more focused on continuing to get better.
“I like to put blinders on," Aaronson said. "It’s always nice hearing that as a player. Something with me is I don’t like getting too high on something because I have so much more to work for and I know what I really want to do. I just want to put my head down and keep playing the way that I’m playing and don’t let that stuff get to me. That’s how I’ve always been."
Photo courtesy of Major League Soccer.