By LARRY HENRY JR.
The Philadelphia Union have always rewarded young players with first-team experiences in MLS play, and Paxten Aaronson became the latest to etch his name into the club’s all-time goal-scoring list on Sunday night in Foxborough, Mass.
Aaronson made his first MLS start for the Union and also delivered his first senior goal in a 2-1 loss to the league-leading New England Revolution. The 17-year-old Medford native and brother of U.S. men’s national team talent and former Union academy player Brenden Aaronson was the shining star for the club despite a road defeat this weekend.
“I kind of peeled off to the left side and saw Jakob (Glesnes) hit a diagonal ball into the green zone and after that I opened my hips, saw (New England defender) Andrew Farrell coming toward me,” Aaronson said post match. “I chopped the ball to my left before hitting a shot into the back of the net. Time just froze and I don’t even know what I meant to do with my celebration, it was a great moment.
“Getting to play in games like these are huge for a young players’ development,” Aaronson said. “Being out there with the guys is such an amazing experience. I’ve worked my whole life to get to this moment, it’s a dream come true to work with guys like Andre (Blake) and Ale (Bedoya). We would’ve liked three points tonight, but now it’s time to focus on Club America this week.”
Aaronson is the latest young player to feature for the Union this season, following in the footsteps of forward Quinn Sullivan and midfielder Jack McGlynn. All three have come through the Union’s system and now have added important first-team minutes under their belts as the club aims to advance in the upcoming Concacaf Champions League semifinals and return to the MLS Cup Playoffs following last season’s Supporters’ Shield title.
Like his brother, Paxten is an attacking midfielder who is always trying to make plays in the final third. Brenden excelled for the Union in his three seasons with the first team, scoring seven goals and adding six assists in 57 combined appearances. The 20-year-old earned a move to Austrian Bundesliga club Red Bull Salzburg, winning the league title and Austrian Cup under the guidance of fellow American and head coach Jesse Marsch.
Paxten has only logged 110 minutes of action in four league appearances this season, but now has a confidence boost heading into the next stretch of matches this summer.
“They’ve worked their whole lives to get to this moment,” Unon coach Jim Curtin said about the young players in the first team squad. “It’s no coincidence that Paxten scores tonight after delivering a strong performance against Chicago Fire II last Monday in a friendly where he scored two goals. You’re trying to build confidence in these players so they can be ready to go when called upon.
“It’s a special moment for Paxten, a terrific goal from him to be honest,” Curtin said. “To take an experienced and good defender like Andrew Farrell and wrong foot him, then beat a goalkeeper like Matt Turner is not easy. Happy for him, but he’ll admit that he’d rather walk away with three points than score a goal.”
Aaronson will continue to fight for first-team minutes as the Union try to stay in the top spots of the Eastern Conference. The club is sitting in fourth place on 28 points from 19 matches played and returns to league action for back-to-back home matches against NYCFC (Aug. 18) and CF Montreal (Aug. 21).