Union manager Jim Curtin played coy this past week when asked who will replace suspended playmaker Marco Fabián in the starting lineup at Atlanta United on Sunday night. But the odds favored Brenden Aaronson well before Curtin dropped a hint about his likely choice.

“It’s a player that’s been deserving of minutes in the past couple weeks, and one that we tried to get into games,” he said.

That’s Aaronson all right, especially the part about coming close to playing before. The 18-year-old Medford native warmed up to play in the second half of the season opener against Toronto FC, but Fabián’s late goal moved Curtin to change tactics and bring in David Accam instead.

Aaronson has bided his time ever since and hasn’t complained.

“It’s my first year, so I’m just trying to learn as much as I can, and if I get in, it’s fantastic,” he said. "I’m really looking forward to that. But I’m going to just keep patient and wait for my chance.”

Curtin believes Aaronson has earned his shot.

“He continues to be, it’s no secret, one of the options that we talk about," Curtin said. "That’s not because he’s a nice story or he’s a young player coming through. It’s because he’s deserving.”

In that Toronto game, Aaronson would have replaced Ilsinho in a deeper central midfield role than Fabián’s — and than Aaronson’s natural position. Aaronson played it some in preseason and didn’t mind it. (He also was quite good at it.)

“I’m a player that runs a lot, sometimes for no reason,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a lot more running for that position because you’ve got to get out and come back in. ... I think I get on the ball a little bit more at that position, because you’re not as high [up the field]. So, it’s a different mixture. I like it a lot, though.”

It will be quite a sight if Aaronson makes his MLS debut in Atlanta. The league’s reigning champion has the league’s biggest and most intimidating crowds. United’s star-studded lineup is headlined by last year’s top scorer, Josef Martínez, and the reigning South American player of the year, Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez.

“I’m not scared to start him,” Curtin said. “He has shown that he can handle pressure, can handle tight spaces, can handle all the things that you ask of a top MLS player. Age is just a number, and Brenden is a guy who has certainly pushed and impressed the coaching staff.”