CHESTER, Pa. — Philadelphia Union midfielder Brenden Aaronson has spent the last 10 months absorbing every bit of information handed to him to improve his game.
On Wednesday, the 18-year-old from Medford, New Jersey earned his first U.S. Men’s National Team call-up for the Concacaf Nations League matches versus Cuba and Canada.
“I always have goals and I set them before the season,” Aaronson said Wednesday. “My goal is always to be the best I can be every single year. If I can make the national team that year, that’s my goal.”
“It just came so quick and it’s been a crazy year,” Aaronson said. “I [have to] thank the coaching staff, my teammates, Haris [Medunjanin], [Alejandro] Bedoya, all of the older guys that have taken me in and all the chances I’ve got. I’m so thankful for that.”
Medunjanin and Bedoya have been two of Aaronson’s biggest mentors since the start of preseason in January, and he will go back to them before he leaves for USMNT camp.
“For sure I’ll talk to Bedoya a little bit to see what he has to say about it,” Aaronson said. “Haris has been there so much for me this year. He’s helped me so much and I can’t thank him enough and I’ll probably bounce some thoughts off him since he’s been with Bosnia for so many years. I’m just going to bounce ideas off them and just keep learning.”
“It’s amazing for the young guy,” Medunjanin said. “He worked hard for it. He came into the season not even knowing he was going to play a lot of these games. For him, it was the first time with us in preseason. He shows he wants to get better in every training. He’s working hard for it and he deserves it. To get a national team call-up when you’re 18 is amazing. Hopefully he can continue for that and it will be a good step for him in his career.”
Aaronson received notice of his call-up last week through an e-mail and kept the information mostly to himself. His parents were part of the small group that knew.
“My parents were the first ones I told. I was going crazy in the house. It’s just awesome,” Aaronson said. “I think I’m a pretty humble guy that I like to keep stuff down. I’ll wait for all the stuff to come out and then I’ll let people talk about it. I like to keep that stuff to myself.”
In 27 games, Aaronson produced three goals and two assists and has been a constant fixture in the Union starting XI down the stretch.
The confidence gained from his MLS play parlayed into a strong U-23 camp last month, where he benefited from the direction of manager Jason Kreis.
“Through all the talks, he thinks highly of me,” Aaronson said of Kreis. “I think he’s a great coach. He helped me a lot. Coming from the Union, where the coaches help me a lot, and get more stuff to learn about.”
Aaronson is the first of the Union’s current Homegrown Players to earn a call-up for a competitive game. Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie participated in January camp, while McKenzie and Matthew Real were on the United States’ roster for the U-20 World Cup earlier this year.
Eventually, Aaronson could be joined by some of his club teammates, who have pushed each day in training to reach new heights.
“I think everybody wants to strive to be better than each other,” Aaronson said. “I think it’s a healthy environment here. Everybody wants to be better than everyone. That’s the competitive nature of this team.”