The New York Red Bulls youth movement doesn’t only apply to academy players.
For defender Aaron Long, who worked his way to a first team contract after one season with New York Red Bulls II, his first season in MLS was a resounding success.
“Aaron went from a great year in USL last year, started out strong and only got stronger as the year went on,” head coach Jesse Marsch said. “To watch him, in this last game, shut down [Sebastian] Giovinco, was phenomenal. We challenged Aaron a lot to developed in terms of leadership, in terms of communication, in terms of presence, in terms of understanding, in all those ways he’s responded.”
In his first full MLS season, he played 31 out of 34 regular season matches, including 30 starts at center back, and his development from USL to MLS was labeled by Marsch as “the foundation of what we’re building for the future.”
Even for Long his instant success in transitioning from NYRB II to the first team came as a surprise.
“It came quick and it’s hard to wrap my head around, taking big steps in my career in a short time, but it’s where I want to be,” Long said. “I have a long way to go, still, for sure…I have to keep working and making things happen.”
During the season, Long was included on the 2017 MLS All-Star ballot, and earned MLS Team of the Week honors twice, one year after being named USL Defender of the Year with NYRB II.
In the eyes of captain Sacha Kljestan, the defender not only had a phenomenal season, but is pushing for a U.S. Men’s National Team call up if his good form continues.
“I think over the course of the year, [he’s] one of the more consistent central defenders in the entire league so for his first year in MLS I think he made tremendous strides,” Kljestan said. “I was a bit disappointed not to see him brought into the national team in this game I think he deserves a chance to be there looking at the rest of the roster. I’m hoping he gets called into January camp, I think he’s deserved it.”
For the 25-year-old native of Oak Hills, California, he knows through hard work and determination, he can continue his development and achieve his dream of playing for the USMNT.
“Of course it’s a goal, it’s a dream of mine to be called in,” Long said. “It’s huge that Jesse and Sacha are stepping up and saying those things on my behalf. I feel a lot of respect and a lot of love from the guys and the coaching staff and on this team.
“[I’m] very happy, hopeful. We’ll see what happens. Very thankful for those guys for having my back.”