In his first full season with the New York Red Bulls first team, defender Aaron Long quickly cemented his place in the foundation of the Red Bulls defense.

This season, Long made 31 appearances for the team, with 30 of those appearances coming as a starter.

While marking, and often shutting down some of the league’s best strikers, Long's development quickly progressed.

“I thought big steps were made in my improvement,” Long stated. “I made a stamp on the team and I think people in this club really respect me and what I’ve done. I’m really proud to be part of this group.”

For the 25-year-old, 2017 is a special year, as it is a testament to hard work paying off. However, the Californian is hungry for more, as part of his mantra is to take nothing for granted.

“Where my career has been early on, having some downsides, I take no days for granted,” Long emphasized. “I have had to prove myself every day, especially in the beginning of the year, in training. This spot wasn’t mine at the beginning of the season, so I had to secure that. Every day I went out there as a way to prove myself.”

Along with having the best professional season of his young career and scoring his first MLS goal in the process, Long accomplished a critical preseason goal of his this year, earning the respect of his teammates.

“In my beginning of the year meeting, I said I wanted to gain my teammates respect and be a player they wanted on the field every game,” Long said. “That was the goal I set with Jesse in the beginning of the year. That was one of the things I tried to do the most this year. I pride myself on being a good locker room guy and having fun with the guys, and I think everyone enjoys that. I enjoy everyone with this club. I think it works both ways.”

BEST OF AARON LONG 2017 by New York Red Bulls on Exposure