Aaronson’s 2017 has been a whirlwind. He started the year in the midst of competition with the Union U16’s, featuring as their No. 10, picking out final passes for an aggressive Union attack, and contributing quite a few goals himself. His contributions to the team earned him U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy Best XI recognition for the Eastern Conference.
A student at Philadelphia Union’s independent partner school YSC Academy, Aaronson finished the 2016-17 season and school year in June and took a few weeks off, but returned early to train with the Steel.
“When I got back I trained with the Steel for a day, and I was told that I was rostered for the Pittsburgh game,” Aaronson said. “In the thirtieth minute someone got hurt. I went in for sixty minutes, and that was my debut."
That quick progression is a feature of the “Pathway to the Pros,” providing talented and ambitious young players opportunities to prove that age is just a number in soccer when the opportunity arises. What it offers developmentally for players like Aaronson is a challenge that requires the player to improve and tighten up their game in order to compete with stronger and faster players. Aaronson is the first to admit he’s not the biggest guy, but adapted his game to his to the occasion.
“I had to clean up my touches, because if the ball gets too far, the opposing players can put a body in to me, or use their strength to take it away," Aaronson said. "I also have to play simpler, take only a touch or two, unlike how I played with the 17’s, where I’d take people on."
But with multiple starts and a little experience, Aaronson is growing more comfortable with the speed of play, and looking to impose himself more upon the game.
“The coaches want me to start taking two touches, getting used to the speed, and playing my way,” Aaronson said.
One of the key implementations for the “Pathway to the Pros” is a homogenous system and methodology that extends from the U12’s all the way to the first team. This means similar tactics, roles, and responsibilities for each position at each progression. Aaronson has been able to utilize his experience in the system to adjust.
“It’s very helpful, playing simpler opens the game and helps me play at a higher level, and it’s developed me to play at this speed," Aaronson said. "As a number 10 in this system I’m working off the number nine, sliding through balls to the wingers or the striker, or taking shots.”
Aaronson’s journey to Bethlehem started in New Jersey, playing out of Medford under his father, Rusty Aaronson, and Drew Wagner.. Aaronson was a part of the one of the first Real New Jersey teams ever, formed in a summer league but kept together with a group of players of whom many would matriculate to the Union Academy.
“At one point we were number one in the country, and we were very savvy at making great players, and playing for my dad was awesome," Aaronson said. "He’s made me the player I am today. He focused on getting as many touches as possible when we were training, mostly dribbling and shooting. We came together as U10’s as a summer league, and we were No. 1 by U12 or U13. Tomas Romero, Donovan Wu, JD Wagner, MD Myers, Mike McKeown, all Union players, were on that team too.”
Zach Wagner and Paxten Aaronson at later times played for Real and the Union as well.
The Real New Jersey pipeline has continued after Brenden’s move to the Union, and has featured, among others, his brother. Paxten Aaronson has proven the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, featuring himself as a number 10 for the Union U15’s and picking out many of the same passes his brother used to at that age. At Generation adidas Cup, Paxten earned five assists over three games as his team outscored their three MLS competitors 14-1.
“Paxten is really, really good at his age, and probably a little better than I was at that age," Aaronson said. "I think he’s got a lot of potential, and I think he’s going to be a great player.”
When asked to identify what specific traits he believe stood out for his brother, Aaronson observed that “we both look for the line breaking pass, like the assists he had at Generation adidas Cup, we both have very good vision."
For Brenden Aaronson, though, the time is increasingly now. Bethlehem Steel has earned a USL playoff spot, and the Union Academy’s season is in full swing. Wherever his future lies, the experience of the past few months is sure to be impactful as he aspires towards the next leap in his development.