Wheeler big body attacking presence Union yearned for...though that's not all he's good for
Six-foot-four Aaron Wheeler let out a good laugh when asked if he knew about the Union's need for height at the forward position.
"I heard some things about that," he joked.
On the training field, the big man resembles England and West Ham striker Andy Carroll, with his short ponytail and large frame.
Off the field, he resembles Chris Hemsworth, the Australian actor who played "Thor" in the 2012 movie "The Avengers".
But Wheeler isn't swinging a magical hammer or fighting the forces of evil. The 24 year old is simply coming into training camp to work hard and aid the team however he can.
"I'm just happy I was able to come in and have an opportunity to help out in whatever way possible," Wheeler told reporters following Monday's training session. "If they need me for set pieces, fine. If they need just a great practice player, I'm here to do that too. Anyway I can contribute, I'm happy."
Wheeler identified his height as his biggest strength, but also believes he possesses a fair amount of speed and athleticism for a taller guy.
"Everybody says I'm fast for a big guy, but I just like to say I'm fast," Wheeler laughed. "I don't necessarily like to be categorized as a big guy, or a small guy, or whatever. It might take me a little while to get going, since these guys (in camp) are pretty quick. But I think my speed and awareness (are good). I'll fight hard and do whatever I can for the team. Tracking back, tackling, battling, my body belongs to the team. I feel like any team I've played for, they know that."
There's also the opportunity for Wheeler to learn from fellow new signing, Conor Casey. At six-foot-one, Casey is smaller than Wheeler, but he maximizes his target man qualities in and around the penalty box.
"For myself, (learning from Conor Casey) is an ideal situation," Wheeler explained. "You see what professionalism is about, a guy that takes his job very seriously and obviously his credentials speak for themself. It's a great situation to be able to learn, to pick up little things from him, as well as him challenging me, because I know it's not going to be easy to get on the field. It pushes me to be that much better every day."
You might be surprised to learn that this isn't Wheeler's first go-around with the team. He had a brief training stint with the Union in 2011.
"I was actually here two years ago training but I had a bad ankle problem, so nothing really came of it," Wheeler said. "I had to get surgery that year. I knew some of the guys when I came in here , some familiar faces, the Farfans, Keon – I came in with them (in 2011). I played against Sheanon in PDL. Sebastien was here as well, so there are a few familiar faces."
Following surgery, Wheeler joined NASL side Ft. Lauderdale Strikers for the 2011 season. He then spent the 2012 season with Finnish second division club, FC KooTeePee.
"It was awesome, I've never lived that far from home," said Wheeler of his European experience. "I've traveled and I've lived in a lot of different places, but this was awesome. There are some things you take for granted here in the U.S., and I can say that for a fact. Over there, (at times) you only had a bike to get around. It's cold, it's still snowing in May, all of that stuff. There was some adjustment, as far as the language. They're a very shy culture. They know how to speak English but they don't prefer to. It's like pulling teeth over there to get people to speak, but after awhile they open up to you."
Wheeler made 17 total appearances and scored two goals during his stay with FC KooTeePee.
And he's not the only American to ply his trade in Nordic Europe. Scandinavia has been a prime landing spot for many local guys, such as Danny Califf, Benny Feilhaber, and more recently Josh Gatt and Mix Diskerud.
"I think it's availability, it's easier for Americans to get over there and get work permits and be able to play," Wheeler revealed. "It's not so easy for an American to jump to Spain or England. It's so much more than just football when you go (overseas). It's about paperwork, and there are so many loops that you've got to jump through just to get on the field and show what you can do. I think that's the main reason you see so many people doing well in Scandinavia."
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org