Brenden_aaronson_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_philadelphia_union_-_perry_mcintyre Perry McIntyre/ISI Photos
Midweek musings

Thoughts on the potential Aaronson to Salzburg move, notes from MLS & aborad

Brenden Aaronson is closing in on a move to Red Bull Salzburg and ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks down that move along with his thoughts from abroad and the busy Wednesday in MLS
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 24, 2020
6:05 AM

IT APPEARS that most major hurdles have been cleared and Philadelphia Union and U.S. U-23 attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson will be joining Red Bull Salzburg in January after the completion of the MLS season.

MLS Soccer’s Tom Bogart was the first to report the news but ASN is also hearing independently that the deal is very, very close. 

The deal to send Aaronson to Salzburg would allow him to finish the season with a surging Philadelphia Union team that sits in second place in the Eastern Conference and has the best opportunity in its history to compete for an MLS Cup. As the team’s starting No. 10, Aaronson is a critical part of the team’s success.

Over the course of this season, Aaronson has been on an impressive upward trajectory where he has taken his game to another level in terms of his playmaking and visionary passing. 2019 was his first year as a starter for the Union but he often would be subbed out and occasionally went through stretches where he came off the bench. This season, his production has improved.

Now all signs point to a move to Austria and a chance to join the Austrian Bundesliga champions during that league’s winter break.

Here are a few thoughts on that move

A positive and deserved move – for everyone

This is good news for all parties: Brenden Aaronson, The Philadelphia Union, the U.S. national team, and Red Bull Salzburg.

Aaronson, 19, will be allowed to complete a second full season with the club that developed him and move on. The Austrian Bundesliga might not be great but Salzburg is in an entirely different class where it is one of the world’s best exporters of young talent. This is a team that dominates in Austria and last season scored 110 goals over 32 games and had a +76 goal differential.

Aaronson will be in a great environment under an American head coach in Jesse Marsch who has worked extensively with some of the best talent in the world and some of the best talent in MLS. It seems extremely likely that Marsch will be moving on to a big job sooner than later and Aaronson might only play under Marsch for a few months – but the first few months are often the toughest for American players when making the move abroad.

Aaronson deserves this in large part because he is the starting No. 10 for a Philadelphia Union team that has improved into one of the best teams in the league during Aaronson’s ascent into this starting role.

Also, when the terms of this deal become known, expect that the Union will keep a decent sell-on percentage of any potential move for Aaronson. A lot of recent MLS sales have included sell-on percentages (Reggie Cannon, Chris Richards) and this would make even more sense to do so. Salzburg has sold lots of players for big sums recently. Philadelphia would be smart to try and be a part of that.

For Philadelphia, this is a great move. Not only will it likely have a sell-on percentage but this sends a signal to many of its other young and promising players that there is a pathway to the UEFA Champions League that runs through the Philadelphia Union. Moves like these only help to attract more talent into the Union organization and it helps prove the quality of the Union’s pathway and pipeline.


For the United States national team, obviously Aaronson will obviously continue his pathway. The No. 10 role is likely going to be taken over immediately by Gio Reyna with the backup probably going to Sebastian Lletget (with Duane Holmes also possible as a backup). Aaronson was in the mix before this and is now continuing to raise his profile. Gregg Berhalter’s decision to bring Aaronson into camps over the past year looks smart in hindsight.

The only team that won’t benefit is the United States U-23 national team which has to deal with a major obstacle in getting players released. MLS teams have become growingly reluctant to even release key players for the U-23 team. Still, domestic players still have the best chance of getting released into the Jason Kreis’ U-23 team. With the sale of Reggie Cannon, the likely sale of Aaronson, and the long-term injury to Paxton Pomykal, qualifying for the Olympics looks very dicey.


Smart to let Aaronson finish the season


It is smart to let Aaronson finish the season with Philadelphia on several levels. First, there are valuable lessons to be learned for Aaronson to be on a team where he is the starter, a leader, and has a chance to win a title. That is a great environment for a young players and now he has the chance to be a difference maker where there is the pressure of leading his hometown team to its first ever title.

The Union have invested a lot in youth in recent years and they invested for two reasons – 1) to potentially sell down the road and 2) to win. It makes sense for the Union to go for the title in 2020 because this is the organization’s best chance in team history.


This also is not going to hurt Aaronson’s chances in Austria. There is going to be an adjustment period when he moves and playing time in Salzburg may not be immediate. The Austria Bundesliga season is underway and Salzburg is off to a strong start.

Whether or not Aaronson moves now or after the Union’s season, his best chance to integrate and make inroads with Salzburg was going to be the Austrian Bundesliga’s winter break. Between now and then, the best competition and the best way to stay on the field is through Philadelphia – where Marsch will want to see Aaronson show his quality as the games becoming bigger.

The younger Aaronson on rise

When Aaronson moves to Salzburg, one of the players who could benefit the most is Brenden’s younger brother – Paxten Aaronson. While the younger Aaronson is still just 16 and is a 2003-born U.S. youth national team prospect, he has shown some real talent for the Philadelphia Union II in USL. A debut could come next season although Paxten’s opportunity to be a regular starter is still probably a few years away.

But still, he is worth watching and it would be interesting to see another Aaronson make its way into the program.



Bassett shines for Colorado


Young domestic players are still getting unprecedented opportunities in MLS the past two years. Aaronson will likely leave and his teammate and 2019 U.S. U-20 World Cup captain Mark McKenize could be far behind – although no move seems imminent.

Who is next? Well, Colorado midfielder Cole Bassett, 19, is certainly one to watch and he has been in terrific form since the season restart at MLS is Back in Orlando.


Last night in a 5-0 win over San Jose, Bassett had a goal and an assist for Colorado. But his production has been at a very high level and the homegrown player now has four goals and four assists over 565 minutes. His 2020 season also began with a U-20 national team camp where he scored both goals in a 2-0 friendly win over Mexico.

If Colorado is looking to sell Bassett, a good time might be after the 2021 U-20 World Cup. If that tournament takes place as schedule and if the United States qualifies, Bassett should play a big role for that team and under former Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson who rates Bassett.


Thoughts on Wednesday’s games

San Jose has gone from a bad team to a team in a dysfunctional tailspin. The 5-0 loss to the Rapids last night combined with a 6-1 loss to Portland last weekend now has the team tied for the fewest points and the worst goal differential in the league.

Big changes are needed and it’s hard to see Matias Almeyda surviving much longer, without some sort of improvement. That being said, the problems likely run much deeper.

Not long ago ago, the Galaxy looked as if it was getting its act together after a disappointing MLS is Back tournament. It won its first four games after MLS is Back in convincing fashion – including two wins over rivals LAFC and a win over MLS is Back winners Portland.

Since then, the Galaxy has been shutout for three straight games one draw (against an abysmal San Jose team) and two losses over that span. Last night it was a 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake. What is even more frustrating for the Galaxy is that the downward skid over the last three games has coincided with the return of Chicharito. The Mexican legend has made six appearances for the Galaxy and is yet to win a game.

Toronto defeated New York City FC 1-0 on a late winner from Alejandro Pozuelo from the penalty spot. It was a positive result for Toronto but U.S. national team forward Jozy Altidore continues to struggle. Last night, Greg Vanney tried to play Ayo Akinola together with Altidore and neither were effective at all.

Despite the loss, however, Keaton Parks was very good for NYCFC. These passing numbers were outstanding.


Orlando is the most improved team in the league and Oscar Pareja is doing a fantastic job. He might be the coach of the year. The key to winning this year is depth. Last night in a 2-1 win over Minnesota, Pareja was able to rotate out Chris Mueller, a likely league Best XI, and Daryl Dike from the starting lineup and still win.

Meanwhile, I can’t say enough about how impressed I am with Frankie Amaya. Cincinnati is still a team that lacks talent but Amaya is an energetic sparkplug that is fierce defensively and effective offensively. Cincinnati played to a 0-0 draw with Philadelphia and Amaya was a big reason why the Union were ineffective and why Cinci could have won it.

The New York Red Bulls had their best win of the season last night in a 4-1 trouncing of Inter Miami. The team was able to score multiple goals while also flexing some depth. Ben Mines, Mandela Egbo, and Brian White all got on the board.

Finally, Jeremy Ebobisse continues to show a lot of growth as a player. The U.S. U-23 forward has a lot of skills in his arsenal these days. Yes, he is a good target forward in the box that is an effective set-piece threat. But this outstanding pass last night set up Yimmi Chara for the only goal in a 1-0 win over rivals Seattle.

USYNT-eligible production in MLS: 9/23/20

With 13 games on the docket on Wednesday here are the goals and assists among U.S. youth national team-eligible players for the day.

Goals: Cole Basset, Jonathan Lewis, Ben Mines, Henry Kessler, Benji Michel,

Assists: Omir Fernandez, Cole Bassett, Auston Trusty, Jeremey Ebobisse


Holmes cleared for Derby

Duane Holmes, 25, has struggled with injuries in 2020. After a very strong start to the year where he looked to be in line for a U.S. national team return in March, he was sidelined with a muscle injury in February. After the Championship restart, he ended up missing the final two games with a thigh injury.


Holmes last played for Derby on September 5 in a shootout win over Barrow in the League Cup.

On Thursday, Derby manager Phillip Cocu gave the green light for Holmes to play this weekend when it hosts Blackburn Rovers in the Championship.

Wingo and Molde draw in Champions League

In the first leg of the Champions League playoff, Molde played Hungarian champions Ferencvárosi in a controversial 3-3 draw in Norway. Seattle native and former Sounder Henry Wingo earned the start at right back for Molde.

The game started off rough for Wingo who was beaten in a footrace on the opening Ferencvárosi goal scored by Franck Boli – a player who thrived at Stabaek under Bob Bradley. From there, Wingo began to settle down and play well.

Molde fell behind 0-2 at home but put forth a huge rally to take a 3-2 lead. But late in the game, Molde could have taken a 4-2 lead but were not awarded a penalty for a handball in the box. Then in stoppage time, Ferencvárosi equalized on a penalty for a handball that was awarded – despite protests from Molde.

Now the contest will return to Hungary. Due to away goals, Molde likely need to win this – which is possible. If they succeed, Wingo and Molde will be off the Champions League group stages. If they fall short, they will still qualify for the Europa League group stages.


USMNT vs New Zealand in November?


According to journalist Andrew Voerman of the New Zealand publication Stuff, the United States national team is attempting to play New Zealand in a friendly during the November window. The friendly would be at a neutral location in Europe (likely in United Kingdom).

Such a friendly would be fun but the top story would be if Gregg Berhalter calls up Tyler Boyd – who played for New Zealand’s youth national teams and the full national team in friendlies but switched to the U.S. team in 2019. The winger has not given any interviews to the New Zealand press since that switch.

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