Brenden Aaronson back with USA men’s soccer team after strong start at Leeds United in Premier League

As Brenden Aaronson has gone through his first season at Leeds United, the Medford native has been too busy to consider how close the World Cup is.

But now that he’s in the last training camp for the United States Men’s National Team before the tournament begins, the light bulb has gone on. That game between the United States and Wales on the second day of action in Qatar is exactly two months away from Wednesday. Yes really.

“It’s crazy to think how close the World Cup is,” Aaronson said Monday during a Zoom press conference from the USA team’s training camp in Cologne, Germany. “With Leeds at the moment, I really haven’t had a chance to really think about it, but it’s really growing. See the [national team] guys again, and thinking, like, ‘Wow, these are the last two games before the World Cup.’ It happens to you quickly.

READ MORE: From Leeds to Philadelphia, Brenden Aaronson’s first Premier League goal is big news

FIFA’s move of this World Cup to the fall to avoid the scorching summer heat in Qatar is undoubtedly a factor in how everyone deals with things. Normally, European club seasons end in mid-May, and players then have a few weeks to prepare for an early summer show.

But this time, the release date for Europe-based players is November 14, just six days before Qatar face Ecuador in the tournament opener. The sport will be a madhouse until then.

“When you watch it, you step back, it’s like, ‘Wow, it’s been a crazy year with a lot of games,’ and it’s all kind of lumped together,” Aaronson said. “You have to try to stay healthy as best you can, do whatever you can to take care of yourself, train more and be ready for that kind of stuff.”

It will be even worse at Leeds, as two of their September games have been postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. USA’s friendly against Japan on Friday (8:26 a.m. ET, ESPN2, UniMás, TUDN, ESPN+) will be Aaronson’s first chance to kick a ball against someone else since Sept. 3.

“It’s been a bit difficult not being able to get back into the groove,” Aaronson said. “But we had some intra-team [games at Leeds], and we trained hard. So I feel ready to go.

READ MORE: Mark McKenzie returns to USA men’s soccer team amid center injuries

The 21-year-old – who turns 22 on October 22 – will be one of the biggest spotlights of the 26-man team in this USA squad. While Aaronson has been one of Leeds’ stars, the left winger above him on the national team depth chart, Hershey’s Christian Pulisic, has mainly been a substitute at Chelsea. That hasn’t changed since former manager Thomas Tuchel was fired earlier this month. New boss Graham Potter has had one game in charge so far, a 1-1 draw against Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League, and he kept Pulisic on the bench until the 84th minute.

There has also been a twist with Team USA, albeit a (hopefully) short-term one: Yunus Musah, one of the team’s starting attacking midfielders, is sidelined with an injury in the groin. With Aaronson playing at the center of his club, could we see him in place of Musah for their country this month?

Aaronson remained diplomatic when the subject came up on Monday.

“For Yunus’ sake, it’s a shame he couldn’t make it to the camp,” he said. “I know we all miss him, he’s a great character in the team, it’s hard not to have him here, and he’s a fantastic player.”

READ MORE: Rising USMNT star Yunus Musah always brings a smile and plenty of talent when he plays

Musah is also another type of player. He’s a tempo controller whose best work often comes in deeper positions than Aaronson’s when he’s advancing with the ball or pressing high defensively.

Aaronson knows that as well as anyone. So it was no surprise to hear him say “I’m not trying to replicate my game after his – I think we have different qualities.”

But if Aaronson is asked to play in the middle, of course he will.

“In terms of position, it doesn’t really matter, I think,” he said. “I like to play both positions in different games. I think different games require different players [for] different opinions about the game.

READ MORE: Jordan Pefok still out of USMNT ahead of final World Cup tune-up matches

There was also time for a few light questions.

Aaronson sat with USA goalkeeper and new father Matt Turner on the podium, and were asked how they had adjusted to life in England away from football. When Aaronson revealed he had improved his golf game, Turner replied, “That must be nice.”

Aaronson was asked at one point about his brother Paxten’s progress with the Union and gushed as an older brother would.

“I’m proud of everything he’s achieved so far in his career,” he said. “I know we’ve had a bit of a different path, but I think he’s on the right path, and I think he’s going to end up having a fantastic career.”

And a question arose that has been on the minds of many fans for a few weeks. When Aaronson and Tyler Adams’ Leeds hosted Pulisic’s Chelsea in August, the three players chatted for a minute on the pitch after the final whistle (and after Aaronson scored his first Premier League goal). Cameras caught them and the footage quickly went viral. What exactly were they talking about?

“We were talking about golf and hanging out,” Aaronson said.

Ah, the innocence of youth, even on one of the biggest sporting stages.

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