Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Exclusive: Brenden Aaronson discusses late international call-ups, Leeds United, and finding his confidence at Union Berlin

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A few weeks ago, Brenden Aaronson admitted to “the toughest year of my life”. He had struggled for form, been dropped from the USA men’s national team, and was facing a difficult summer considering his future.

Since then, Aaronson scored against Werder Bremen, helped USA retain the CONCACAF Gold cup title, and is enjoying his football again.

In a wide-ranging interview, Aaronson discusses the defeat to Bundesliga Champions-elect Bayer 04 Leverkusen, finding his feet and his role at Union Berlin, watching Leeds United’s promotion push, and his future.

Playing Leverkusen with ten men

Union Berlin vs Bayer Leverkusen came to life in first half added time as Robin Gosens received a red card and Florian Wirtz dispatched a penalty soon after.

It left Union Berlin with a mountain to climb, but the hosts kept the deficit to one.

They were unable to overcome Leverkusen’s defence, but Aaronson said there were a lot of positives from the defeat.

“It wasn’t great to concede so late in the half, mistakes happen and I know Robin wants that one back, he has been amazing for us all season. I’ve been there, I’ve had a red card this season too.
“Everyone makes mistakes but in the first half, we were good and if we kept it goalless, maybe we could have got something from the game.
“We had some good chances, we had some half chances so it’s always going to be difficult down to 10 men.
“Leverkusen had a lot of control but they control every game, they are so good with the ball, their movement, their one-touch football, it’s really tough to play against them.
“It was difficult to take the red card, (afterwards) there was less space to hold onto the ball, it was tougher, so ye, it was difficult after the red card but it’s ok, we just have to bounce back.”

Finding his role

After being out of favour under the previous Union Head coach, Urs Fischer, Aaronson has found his place and his confidence under Nenad Bjelica:

“I feel really good right now, in a great headspace, feeling a lot of positives.
“I love the role I’m playing as a 10 between the lines, it’s the role I’ve always played and I’ve been playing as an 8 all season, it was difficult to learn that and now I’ve found a spot where I can see myself playing a lot.
“The coach has confidence in me and that helps me to be myself. I’m in a really good spot and space.
“I feel really good and I’m excited for the last 6 or 7 games left. We will keep pushing.”

Fighting relegation: “It’s in our control”

With Union losing and big wins for Mainz and FC Köln in the Bundesliga relegation places, the gap between the sides was cut to six points.

With trips to Köln and Gladbach to come, and Bayern Munich to play at home in two weeks, Union may find themselves back in a relegation scrap.

However, Aaronson said that Union Berlin have nothing to fear:

“It’s all in our control, we have a tough game coming up at home against Bayern but away, against Augsburg and others, anything is possible.
“I think we have a lot of games where we can get 3 points, show what we can do.
“Playing with ten men against Leverkusen shows that we have something to take away, lots of confidence to keep it to 1-0 and we have a lot of positives to build on and keep going.”

Where does his future lie?

On loan from Championship side, Leeds United until the summer, Aaronson’s future is unclear.

The American attacking midfielder admitted that staying is an option but his future is still unresolved:

“I can see myself remaining here.
“The club is amazing. it’s not upto me at the end of the day but I have so much respect for Union, the way it has been built, the staff, it’s an amazing family club and they’ve done an amazing job.
“For me, it’s (about) making the right decision in the summer, evaluating the year and going from there.
“Staying is an option but I can’t say much more.”

Following Leeds United from afar

The Leeds United loanee has been watching as his parent club press for an immediate return to the Premier League.

Aaronson said he has enjoyed watching Leeds and is confident of a successful season for the Yorkshire club:

“I’ve been paying close attention to Leeds, I know a lot of the guys, I get on with a lot of them, they are good guys.
“I’ve been paying attention because they’ve been having a fantastic season so it’s been great to watch.
“They just need to keep pushing because they’ve got good things coming their way at the end of the season.”

Late international call-up

During the international break, USA men’s team defended their CONCACAF title but Aaronson nearly missed out.

After being initially dropped, late injuries and finding form at Union Berlin earned Aaronson a late call-up.It meant a late night and skipping out of watching Dune 2:

“I talked to everyone in here after Bremen, I scored my goal and did everything I could. I then went outside, got a call from the (USMNT) coach and went.
“It’s always an honour to represent the country, no matter what it is, whether it’s getting called late or anything, so I was just excited to be a part of the success.
“I wanted to watch Dune 2 that night but I had to rush and get everything together. We were up until 3am getting packed and stuff.”

Aaronson will have plenty of time to watch Dune 2 at the end of the season and if he keeps up his current form, he will be one of the stars of Union Berlin’s Bundesliga season.

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