Brenden Aaronson embodies everything the Philadelphia Union want out of their "Pathway to the Pros."
The 19-year-old Medford, New Jersey native became the first Union Homegrown Player to be sold Friday, when his move to Red Bull Salzburg of the Austrian Bundesliga was made official.
“It’s truly a special day. It’s been a dream of mine since I was such a little kid. It’s all come true. I couldn’t be any more excited," Aaronson said;.
“I think Salzburg is the perfect fit for me because of the way that they play and they have an amazing coach too," Aaronson said.
Aaronson rose through the Union's developmental ranks and took full advantage of his opportunity when he earned a starting gig to start the 2019 Major League Soccer regular season.
The midfielder received increased attention from Europe during his breakout performance at the MLS is Back tournament.
Aaronson carried that form into the return of play inside home stadiums and eclipsed his goals and assists totals from his debut season in MLS.
Unlike a few players that were transferred out of MLS recently, Aaronson is committed to staying with the Union in the chase of their first trophy.
When he was coming through the system, Aaronson saw how close the Union came to winning three U.S. Open Cup finals, only to be denied by the Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo.
With the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup within reach this season, Aaronson did not want to leave the club without giving his best efforts to fill the trophy case for the first time.
“It was my goal to finish out the season with the Union because of the amazing season we have had so far and what the club has done for me over the years," Aaronson said. "It’s been an incredible ride and I can’t thank the fans, the coaches, really everyone in the system going from Union II to the academy, even YSC academy, it’s been truly an unbelievable ride and I can’t thank everybody that’s been a part of it enough. This dream doesn’t come true without them."
While other players may be distracted by the outside noise, Aaronson remained focused on the task at hand. He has three goals and three assists since returning from MLS is Back, and he has chipped in to play three or four different positions in recent games to fill in for injured starters or players out on international duty.
The same versatility flexed recently could be one of Aaronson's biggest assets moving forward at Salzburg because of the team's style of play.
“They play out of a 4-2-2-2. I’ve been told that I’m going to go in and slide in as one of the 10s," Aaronson said. "I think that formation fits me well and the whole dynamic of how they want to play, pressing the ball, constantly moving forward. I think that fits my style of play and I think it’s an awesome setup with what they have there and I’m really excited to join."
“I think being a versatile player is a great quality," Aaronson said. "Really wherever I slide into, I’m going to try and do my best. I think that it’s an opportunity to get on the field and show your qualities. I think the versatility is great for me and should only help in the long run. At Salzburg, even if I’m not playing the 10, maybe I slide into the two underneath the 10 or somewhere else. It really doesn’t matter. The versatility just comes with me wanting to be on the field and playing my best at every position."
The obvious connection between the Union and Red Bull Salzburg is sporting director Ernst Tanner, who came to MLS from the Austrian club in 2018.
But the real driving force of Aaronson's move was the player himself after discovering his new club's style of play.
:”I’ve heard a lot about Red Bull Salzburg as a club," Aaronson said. "Ernst came from them. I’m really big into looking at clubs. I’ve always been a guy that goes on YouTube and is constantly watching soccer YouTube. Chelsea, Liverpool and their videos. I stumbled upon Red Bull Salzburg and their history of developing players and also being an unbelievable club. I think that was definitely a club that stood out to me when all the interest started coming in for me. That was for sure a huge part of it. That’s really the perfect club for me."
In a way, Aaronson got his way with the transfer in a similar vein to how he preferred to remain a Union player for the duration of the 2020 season.
It speaks to the type of player and person Aaronson is that is not willing to jettison off to Austria at the first chance to play European soccer.
If he moved to Europe right away, he could have the potential to fight for a spot in a squad that has six upcoming UEFA Champions League group-stage matches. If that was his preference, Aaronson's move likely would have been announced earlier to fit roster compliance guidelines.
Instead, the 19-year-old has some unfinished business he wants to take care of before embarking on the next step of his career.
“As a group, we’ve had one goal in our mind the entire year and that’s to win a trophy," Aaronson said. "This is something I’ve wanted for this club for a long time. It’s really in me to win something and I hope that you guys see it every game. I feel like I come out every game and I want to win something for this club. I will give my all for the rest of the season. I can promise you that because this club means something very special to me and I’m going to give my all and hopefully we can win something."