If there is one player that has opened the eyes of the Union technical staff lately -- that is not named Jack McInerney, it would be Aaron Wheeler. Wheeler signed with the Philadelphia Union in January after he spent a season playing for FC KooTeePee of the Finnish Ykkönen. Since his acquistion, he has spent most of his first season with the team as reserve, but has proven to be a key cog in the Union's design with his determination in training and raw athleticism.
On May 23, Wheeler was sent on loan to the Harrisburg City Islanders for their game against the Richmond Kickers and did not disappoint. He notched two goals in the match and gave coaches a glimpse of his scoring ability. Goal scoring is not a new area for the six foot, four inch tall forward. In 2009, Wheeler spent a season playing for the Reading Rage, (now Reading United AC), and earned most valuable player honors, and also led the league in scoring.
Wheeler’s performance in Harrisburg did not go unnoticed as he earned a spot in the gameday 18 for the Union’s match against Columbus. He was rewarded for his recent play when manager John Hackworth subbed him into the game in the final minutes. Wheeler once again stood out as he made a strong pass which gave Jack McInerney a dangerous chance.
Wheeler finished out his strong stretch of play when the Union played a friendly against his old squad, Reading United AC. Wheeler got the opportunity to start the game and made the most of his time as he scored the eventual game winner. After a month like that, philadelphiaunion.com had to catch up and get his thoughts on the recent success.
Philadelphiaunion.com: Do you feel your game has progressed this year?
Aaron Wheeler: It has definitely taken steps forward. I have put on a lot of weight since coming in here, about 27 pounds since November so I have definitely bulked up and that has helped with a lot of parts of my game in terms of holding the ball well, being strong, winning headers and things like that. I would say my game has progressed, if anything it has become more consistent in many ways so it is definitely another progression in my career.
PU.com: When you were loaned to Harrisburg, did you feel you had to step up your game?
AW: I wouldn’t say “step up my game” necessarily, but whenever you go on loan there is a reason you are down there. They want you to get minutes, get fitness, and things like that so you just want it to be useful of your time. I went in there fully expecting to score, I don’t go somewhere or step on the field, especially right now with my confidence being so high, not expecting to score. It was good to reap the benefits down there; it was just all-in-all a great outing and a good opportunity to get some minutes and just show what hopefully I would be able to bring to the team if I were to get the opportunity.
PU.com: How did it feel to be rewarded for your recent play and get on the field in the Columbus game?
AW: That was awesome. It is good to reap the benefits of hard work, but that is all the way from back in preseason. It’s not just one game that epitomizes everything that you have done; it is just all the hard work does pay off eventually. I firmly believe if you keep plugging away eventually your time will come and you will catch breaks here and there so it was great. The warm receptions from the fans and everything, you couldn’t ask for a better debut especially in a win.
PU.com: How disappointed were you when Jack missed that open chance you set up?
AW: It is just unlucky with Jack not finishing that out. There are no hard feelings or anything like that, it is just unlucky. I mean I have missed easier sitters than that. It is just unlucky, that is all it is.
PU.com: You played for Reading in 2009 and won MVP honors that year. How did it feel to score a goal in your return?
AW: It was good. It just felt very familiar back there. I would be lying if I said I didn’t go there expecting to score too. I have scored a lot of goals there so after I scored it just felt very familiar. I just fully expected to go there and perform well, it just the way I have been playing, the confidence I have in myself right now. It was good to round out the week really well.
PU.com: What do you feel you need to do reach the next level in your career?
AW: You always have room to improve, to progress. That all comes with minutes and experience. My main thing I want to do is find a way to break into the squad more, make sure I am more consistently in the 18 and as that progresses then hopefully more minutes will come, but that all starts out with training every day. I still have to stay consistent and everything like that so that obviously is the next step for me. I want to try to be in the 18 more and try to contribute as much as possible as long as the coaching staff sees that I can. That is the only real thing I have moving forward this season is to try to be in the mix more consistently.
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