Philadelphia Union center back Mark McKenzie and midfielder Brenden Aaronson are more than aware of the buzz surrounding their talents at the moment.
European clubs have been rumored to be circling around the pair of players in recent weeks. McKenzie has been a target of Celtic, as the Daily Record and others have reported. Germany has been the destination linked with Aaronson by multiple outlets, but no club has come forward as the favorite.
The resumes of the two players grew Thursday when they were included in the MLS is Back best XI alongside teammate and goalkeeper Andre Blake.
With the dream of playing European soccer apparently close, McKenzie and Aaronson are remaining humble and focused on the August 21 clash with the New England Revolution.
"It's always exciting to hear about interest, especially coming from Europe," McKenzie told reporters Thursday. "As a kid, you dream about playing in the top footballing leagues. You look at today, Champions League is on. You dream about being in those positions. It's a huge opportunity, not only for ourselves, but for the club as well. It's great attracting that attention and it really shows that our hard work is coming to fruition. We just have to continue to dig at it day in and day out. Ultimately, the chance and opportunity will come. Again, it's about handling business on the field and making sure that we're doing everything we can to be successful. From there, as the tournament shows, the individual accolades will follow."
"Mark said it perfectly. It's every kid's dream going to Europe," Aaronson said. "It's something I dreamed of a kid. Like Mark said, we have to take care of business and we need to keep playing as a team. What me and Mark are going to do is keep playing for the team. Our main focus right now is New England. That's what it was throughout the tournament too. I don't think we let that stuff get to us so we're just going to keep playing for the team and not worrying about that stuff."
Union head coach Jim Curtin told The Gambler in an interview Tuesday that he believes both players are ready to make the jump to Europe.
McKenzie admitted it is hard to not pay attention to anything given the digital climate and the easy access to information, but he is benefiting from his upbringing to remain focused on what he has to achieve with the Union.
"In the day and age of social media, everything is always getting back to you," McKenzie said. "You see it pop up on your phone throughout the day, but ultimately, I try not to let it get to me. My parents have always made sure humility is something I kept in my heart at all times. As great as it is, I try to stay as grounded as possible. Ultimately, the chance will come for me to be in the position, as well as Brenden. It shows we've been doing something right with the Pathway to the Pros and it's something the club has been pushing for. It's time to maximize on that now that this opportunity is here. We have to continue to push and make sure these things happen."
McKenzie and Aaronson can rely on the veterans in the Union locker room that have played overseas for advice in the process, as well as those that have dealt with rumored European interest in the past.
Blake knows all too well what it is like dealing with European interest. He was the topic of transfer rumors a few years ago.
"You just have to let them know there's always going to be noise, there's always going to be rumors," Blake said. "You'll know when it's legit, You'll hear something, whether it's from your agent or the club, it comes with being a professional, you have to learn to block out all the noise and the rumors and stay focused and get the job done."
"I don't think it's any different and I think these guys have been doing a great job and they'll continue to do a good job staying focused in the moment and just keep doing what they have to do," Blake said.