If all goes according to plan for the Union, at some point relatively soon they’ll sign a midfield general to orchestrate the attack.
Until then, they’re giving Brenden Aaronson some time in the spotlight. So far, they like what they’ve seen from the 18-year-old Medford native.
Actually, “so far” might be an understatement. The Union have liked what they’ve seen ever since they signed the academy product to a pre-contract last summer.
In the months after he signed the deal, Aaronson was a regular participant in first-team practices. He did not look out of place then, and he looks even better now.
“He has the ability to turn, to play a final pass, has the work rate to cover ground and run, and break up plays as well,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “We’ll give him the keys, so to speak, at certain moments of the preseason and see how he handles it.”
Of course, the spotlight can hit any teenage debutant hard when it gets turned on. Aaronson is going through that now.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking, knowing you’re under contract now," Aaronson said. “I’m so happy that the coaches have that kind of confidence in me."
Aaronson is a genuine midfield playmaker, the most famous and cherished position in the sport. Though he doesn’t wear the traditional No. 10 jersey yet, he has the skills to do it some day.
The U.S. hasn’t produced many players like that in its soccer history. That makes Aaronson’s potential even more important to Curtin.
“That’s not to put pressure on him, because he still has a long way to go,” Curtin said. “But at the same time, for a position we’ve as a country predominantly failed to produce, he’s one of the close ones.”
As soccer tactics evolve, there isn’t as much room for a classic playmaker as there used to be. But mention the significance of the role to Aaronson and you’ll see a familiar glint in his eye.
“You’ve got to have that little spark,” he said. “It’s definitely a magical position — you’ve got to be able to find that final pass, and you can score goals.”
Aaronson also had praise for Sergio Santos, the Union’s new top striker.
“He’s really explosive and fast,” Aaronson said. “If you’re a 10, it’s going to be a joy to play with him, because he’s so fast. He can get in behind, and he’s strong and can score goals.”
When that new midfielder arrives, Aaronson will be fine with the spotlight shifting.
“This is a learning year, I feel like,” he said. “If they bring in that No. 10, I’m just going to bounce ideas off him and try to be as good as him.”