Brenden Aaronson to Salzburg: 'This is just the beginning'

After Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich, 19-year-old Brenden Aaronson's transfer to RB Salzburg is the biggest move by an MLS Homegrown player to Europe.

The move, to take effect in January, became official on Friday. The deal is the Philadelphia Union’s first outgoing European transfer and includes what it described as "a multi-million-dollar transfer fee, as well as additional performance-based bonuses, for the highest ever transfer fee for a U.S.-based homegrown player."

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Salzburg will pay a $6 million transfer fee, plus up to $3 million in performance bonuses, citing sources who said the "bonuses shouldn’t be too hard achieve."

The move comes in Aaronson's second pro season. The South Jersey product started 25 of 34 MLS games in 2019 and has started all 18 games in 2020. With four goals and five assists this season, he has been a big reason why the Union is second in the overall MLS standings, trailing Toronto FC by just three points in the Supporters' Shield race.

"Brenden Aaronson is regarded as one of the biggest talents in MLS, with an extraordinary dynamism and presence on the pitch for a 19-year-old," said Salzburg porting director Christoph Freund. "Despite his young age he has an incredible ability to make the right decisions on the pitch. Brenden's style of football makes him a perfect fit for us, and we are already looking forward to having him.“

The Salzburg coach is American Jesse Marsch, who left MLS's New York Red Bulls a season before Aaronson's MLS debut but has followed the midfielder's progress.

"We’ve watched Brenden Aaronson for some time now and he’s gotten better with each game," said Marsch. "He understands our philosophy of soccer and he is clever on the ball. He does all the things that we like in a player. I think Brenden will adapt immediately to the way we play. We are really excited for him to be a member of our team. Brenden is going to love it here."

Aaronson, who turns 20 on Thursday, will join one of Europe's most ambitious small clubs. Backed by Austrian energy drink giant Red Bull, Salzburg has won seventh consecutive Austrian Bundesliga titles and six of the last seven Austrian Cup trophies.

Freund, Salzburg's sporting director since 2015, was responsible for signing Sadio Mane (now at Liverpool), Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) and Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipizg).

“We have only pros, there are no cons in this transfer," said Union sporting director Ernst Tanner, who joined the Union in 2018 from Salzburg "That’s not always the fact.”

A mid-season transfer should not be a disruption for Aaronson. Salzburg sold Haaland to Borussia Dortmund, Takumi Minamino to Liverpool and Marin Pongracic to Wolfsburg in January and came back to win the Bundesliga title in Marsch's first season as head coach.

“Brenden will go into very good hands with Jesse Marsch," Union coach Jim Curtin said. "He’ll push Brenden and make him better at an exceptional club. This is just the beginning for Brenden.”

6 comments about "Brenden Aaronson to Salzburg: 'This is just the beginning'".
  1. R2 Dad, October 16, 2020 at 10:59 p.m.

    Very curious how this develops; great for the kid. Philly doesn't seem to play him through the middle, but the highlights show he might be able to develop into a 10. German woiuld be a good prep for the Bundesliga if he can manage it. Well done Union!

  2. Wooden Ships replied, October 17, 2020 at 12:23 p.m.

    I like his game and makeup. Another likely candidate for a starting role with our National team. 

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, October 17, 2020 at 6:18 p.m.

    WS, what bothers me is do we have a coach who can get the best out of these young players. Our style of play should be moving beyond the blue collar approach, by that I mean adding a more technically sophisticated component to it. Better technique also enables us to be tactically better too. But who in the US coaches that way (besides a few foriegn coaches)? Maybe not this cycle, but next cycle coaching is going to become a critical pacing item.

    Berhalter's heart is in the right place, but I think the MNT talent pool has outgrown him. This is just a guess of course (not the part about his heart--that I am sure of). I have no insight into what is actually happening at training sessions and in the locker room. 

    If our young talent is as promising as we think it is, then we ought to be able to recruit from the best coaches in the world.

  4. Wooden Ships replied, October 17, 2020 at 11:21 p.m.

    I agree with you Bob. I think under the circumstances GB will be our coach through qualifying and we make it, Qatar. I don't see the USSF doing anything different, short of some major incident. I'm pulling for him, but wonder, like I have with Tab, does he have the force of personality. Not sure it requires the highest level of playing but it will require a respect from the players. And, while we have many more skilled players to draw from they need to be able to put the team and the jersey first. I think he would be making a huge mistake calling in some of divisive veterans. We still would be fortunate to get out of group in Qatar, ahead of myself, our 2026 side should be capable of semi's. I'm an optimist. Again, with the compressed schedules (COVID) and minimal together time and the always present injury monster, Greg needs to use the KISS plan and pick thoughtfully of his leader-Captain. Another thought with the USSF division-gender would they fork out the money for an international manager? 

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, October 18, 2020 at 9:10 a.m.

    WS, you mentioned Tab. He has had a history of success dealing with the U20 teams. The U20 team and the senior team are so very different experiences though. He has plenty of senior team experience, but not as the head coach. He could be a good choice.

    I also think Bradley might be the answer too. He had a good cycle before he was replaced by JK. He has gained international experience and I like what I hear about LAFC. He may be ready for a change in 2 years.

  6. humble 1, October 19, 2020 at 1:53 a.m.

    I have not seen the kid play, but he'll be in good hands with Jesse Marsch and the RB Salzburg organization.  Very good move on his part. Aronson is a credit to Union's YSC Academy program, which is quietly becoming a world class academy.  As for GB, the challenge for him will be the same as it was for Bruce and JK, the dearth of international quality players 20-30 years old - the prime age for international competitions - we have a bunch of old 30+ players - then these <20's that will likely struggle as they cut their teeth in CONCACAF road situations.  On the world stage, even in CONCACAF, you have to be a world class manager or you get found out very quickly.  Give him a chance.  We'll see soon enough.     

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