During the television broadcast of a “MLS is Back” group-stage match between the Philadelphia Union and Orlando City SC, commentator Taylor Twellman revealed that multiple Bundesliga scouts were following the development of Philadelphia Union 19-year-old attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson. Twellman, a former United States national team player, called Aaronson a typical “Spielmacher” (playmaker) during the broadcast and went a step further by comparing him to Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz.
“I am not saying he is at the same level, but there are shades of Havertz in his game,” Twellman said. According to Transfermarkt, SC Freiburg is the club most interested in the teenager, but Hoffenheim, Borussia Mönchengaldbach, and Eintracht Frankfurt are all thought to be in the mix to sign Aaronson.
Philadelphia Union sporting director Ernst Tanner has previously worked at clubs in Germany such as 1860 Munich and TSG Hoffenheim as well as Austrian Bundesliga side RB Salzburg, which only further adds to the speculation of a move to Germany.
Brenden Aaronson burst onto the MLS scene in 2019, tallying three goals and an assist in 1,700 minutes in his first season, earning him his first USMNT cap in February 2020. Aaronson has already demonstrated an improvement in goal production with a goal and five assists in just five matches so far in 2020.
Union manager Jim Curtain primarily utilized Aaronson at the top of the diamond in their preferred 4-4-2 formation behind two central strikers. He has also featured on the left of the midfield diamond. Additionally, Aaronson has seen time playing on the left-wing of a 4-2-3-1. Aaronson checks multiple boxes with his versatility and positionally would be a great fit in many German midfields, especially that of Mönchengladbach as a eventual replacement for the 31-year-old Lars Stindl. With the breakout of Christoph Baumgartner at Hoffenheim, it seems unlikely they would be in the mix for Aaronson, though the rumors still circulate.
For a player who is only 19-years-old, Aaronson possesses exceptional positional awareness and reads the defensive pressing well to occupy the space vacated by a defender stepping out to pressure a teammate. Additionally, he has tremendous anticipation-of-play for a player with just over 2,000 first-team minutes. Below, Aaronson makes a great forward run after the strikers pull the center-backs out of position, exploiting the vacated space down the middle.
Aaronson also possesses a quality first touch and ability to control the ball in tight spaces, allowing him to resist pressure from defenders before finding a teammate in space to start the counter-attack. In the two clips below, Aaronson retrieves the ball under pressure and uses his ball skills to turn, freeing space from the defender before finding the open pass to start the break. While his assist numbers were low in 2019, playing behind higher-quality strikers would certainly see an increase in his assist tally.
Aaronson’s primary weakness is his end product, especially when comparing to a talent such as Havertz, who is coming off the back of a twelve goal, six assist league campaign. Although his movement allows him to often find space in the box, Aaronson needs to work on his composure in the box and increase his goal-scoring output. Overall, Aaronson impresses with great technique on the ball. Combined with his off-ball movement and quickness, he has the potential to continue his development into a quality attacking midfielder. With a Transfermarkt valuation of only $1.43 million, Aaronson has rightfully generated interest to join the likes of Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie as young American midfielders crafting their trade in the German Bundesliga.