Midweek musings

Aaronson moves to Leeds in blockbuster move, youth flourishes in Open Cup, & much more

Brenden Aaronson is heading to Leeds United in a blockbuster move, young Americans flourished in the Open Cup and the Canadian Championships, more American qualified for European competitions next year, and Luca Koleosho could be the next dual national battle for U.S. Soccer. ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks it all down with his analysis. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 26, 2022
6:00 AM

IT WAS BIG BUT fun for American soccer as most of the European leagues are now over. The top story wasn’t a surprise, but its magnitude is still big as Brenden Aaronson fetched the second highest transfer price ever for an American player as Leeds agreed to a huge price tag set by Salzburg. The midweek games domestically and in Canada, meanwhile, saw some really impressive performances by young American players.

With that said, let’s get into it


Aaronson seals move to Leeds


Brenden Aaronson became the first American to move this summer as he has secured a move to Leeds United who paid a astronomical $31 million to Red Bull Salzburg for him. The attacking midfielder has been on a phenomenal run since play resumed from the COVID shutdown in 2020. Consider this: 

  • He won the 2020 MLS Supporters Shield
  • Was named to the 2020 MLS Best X
  • Earned a $6 million (with $3 million more incentives) transfer to Salzburg
  • Won the 2020/21 Austrian Bundesliga
  • Won the 2020/21 Austrian Cup
  • Won the 2021/22 Austrian Bundesliga
  • Won the 2021/22 Austrian Cup
  • Helped Salzburg advance out of the Champions League group stages
  • Won the 2021 Nations League
  • Qualified for the 2022 World Cup
  • Earned a $31 million transfer to Leeds United


That is quite a ride. In a combined 66 appearances, Aaronson scored 13 goals for Salzburg typically playing as the No. 10 position.

The deal is the second highest price ever paid for an American player only behind Christian Pulisic’s monster £58 million transfer fee paid by Chelsea to Borussia Dortmund.

Here are some thoughts on the deal.

Interest predated Marsch


Some cynics will say that Aaronson earned this deal because of Jesse Marsch and that Marsch wanted to bring in a countryman who he managed before in Salzburg.

This isn’t true. Marsch didn’t take over the Leeds United job until February 28th. But Leeds United wanted to bring in Aaronson back in January when Marcelo Bielsa was the head coach. In fact, Leeds saw a $20 million bid for Aaronson rejected at the close of the window because Salzburg did not want to sell one of its best players weeks before its first Champions League knockout game against Bayern Munich.

This interest in Aaronson had little to do with Marsch. Instead, this interest in Aaronson comes entirely from within the Leeds front office.

Marsch knows how to use him


While Leeds wanted to bring Aaronson into the club independently of Marsch, it is a huge boost to Aaronson that he is arriving at a situation where he has worked with the manager before and the manager knows him very well. Marsch knows where to play Aaronson, what formation and style suits him and what players will work best around him.

Likewise, Aaronson will know exactly what Marsch wants from his players, what formations he prefers, how he runs training, etc. On top of a full preseason, Aaronson should be able to have about as quick of a transition as possible. Everything is breaking his way in that regard.


Pressure is on Aaronson

When a non-Champions League contending team pays $31 million for a player, there is a huge expectation that the player will be a star. Being a role player or even an above average player for Leeds will not be good enough. Yes, Aaronson will be given a bit of a grace period, but Leeds supporters and the front office will want to see Aaronson grow into a player they can build their team around. He’s going to need to score and he’s going to have to raise the level of the players around him.

What Aaronson is going to have to help orchestrate is be central to an effort where Leeds is not in a relegation battle next season. No one is expecting that Leeds will be in the running for a spot in Europe, but now with Marsch having the advantage of a preseason an a transfer window, supporters want to be assured that Leeds will at least be able to push towards midtable in 2022/23.

If Leeds does that and Aaronson plays a healthy role in that, then it will be a success. But Aaronson will also need to generate some goals and assists.


Philly getting paid


When Philadelphia sold Aaronson to Salzburg, they maintained a sell-on percentage and that turned out to be a golden ticket. Per the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia will receive $5 million from Salzburg for the sale of Aaronson to Leeds.

What does that mean? Well, it means that Aaronson in total paid the Philadelphia Union $14 million – assuming the $3 million in incentives were met (it’s a safe bet that he reached these incentives given his success).

“In all ways a really special day, monumental day, not only for the Aaronson family but for the Union,” Philadelphia manager Jim Curtin said. “For the Academy, for the work that goes on there. And obviously the dollars behind there too are impressive....  A deal that was in the best interest of the player, I think Ernst and the Union put that at the forefront and with that intelligence and having some foresight you see the next move can be a bigger one for you.”

 After Alphonso Davies and Ricardo Pepi, Aaronson is the third most valuable homegrown player to have left the league once including the realization of sell-on fees.


Open Cup & Canadian Championships

The U.S. Open Cup and Canadian Championships took place over the midweek and one of the more impressive aspects of it all is that both events saw young Americans thrive.

Tayvon Gray: The NYCFC right back has continued to be one of the more underrated young American players in MLS. He’s effectively replaced Anton Tinnerholm, the best right back in the league, en route to MLS Cup in 2021. NYCFC has thrived with him in the lineup, and he was sharp in Wednesday’s 1-0 extra time win over New England. If the U.S. U-20 team qualifies for the Olympics, he could be an option with the U-23 team.

Esmir Bajraktarevic: Just one day after signing his homegrown deal with the New England Revolution, Brue Arena started the 17 year old Bajraktarevic in the game against NYCFC. He played 67 minutes and was subbed out with the score 0-0 as his Revolution team ended up losing 1-0 in extra time. Overall he was sharp despite fading in his final 10 minutes. He was smooth on the ball and you can see why he is among the higher rated 2005-born American players. He is one of three 2005-born players in the current U.S. U-20 pool (along with Kristen Fletch and Obed Vargas) despite all being eligible for the following cycle.

John Tolkn: The 19-year-old left back is already a veteran for the New York Red Bulls but in his return from COVID, he was very good in the 3-1 win over Charlotte. What is so important about Tolkin is that he is so consistent. His subpar games are few and far between. He is a player definitely on the rise.

Josh Wynder: The highly talented 2005-born central defender started for Louisville in a 2-1 loss to Nashville and looked sharp before having to be taken out in the 51st minute with a knock. The score was 1-1 when he left. He is very much a player worth watching.

Brooklyn Raines: The highly talented Houston Dynamo midfielder didn’t put in a bad foot in his 57 minutes of action. While the Dynamo lost 2-1, the score was even at 1-1 when Raines left. As a 2005-born player, he turned 17 in March, and this was his first-team debut. He made a case for real MLS minutes in the future and he is one to watch.

Matko Miljevic: had one of his best outings since joining Montreal from Argentinos Juniors. The Florida-born Miljevic had two assists and was key to the build-up of a third as Montreal defeated Forge FC 3-0 in the Canadian Championship. Miljevic missed 16 months of his key developmental years due to a contractual dispute with Argentinos Juniors. That set him back but perhaps this means more minutes are on the horizon.

Montreal will now face Toronto in the semifinals of the Canadian Championships on June 20.



Osaze de Rosario: The American-born forward scored his fourth goal of the season in all competitions for York United as they defeated Pacific FC in a shootout after a 2-2 final in the Canadian Championships. De Rosario, 20, has been off to a terrific start in Canada after being forced to leave his Ukrainian club due to the invasion. York United will now face the Vancouver Whitecaps on June 20 in the semifinals.


Thoughts on the games


The New York Red Bulls advanced to the quarterfinal with a 3-1 win over Charlotte FC at Montclair State, which is normally the home of Red Bulls II. The result flattered the Red Bulls as Charlotte seemed to dominate possession for long stretches. The Red Bulls were dangerous on counterattacks and were clinical with their finishing.

The Red Bulls aren’t playing their best soccer of recent weeks but the key to getting everything turned around is having Patrik Klimala get hot. If he turns around, things change for them very quickly but they need more out of the No. 9.

The Hudson River Derby quarterfinal game should be excellent in large part because the rivalry typically always brings out the best in both teams, but NYCFC is just on a monster roll and is hitting their stride. Between the Open Cup and MLS, NYCFC has eight wins, two draws, and zero losses over its last 10 games. NYCFC was tripped up in the beginning of the season trying to focus on the CCL, MLS, and the Open Cup. Since its elimination from the CCL, they’re on fire.

In the 1-0 win over New England, NYCFC prevailed without starting Taty Castellanos and Santiago Rodriguez (who both came off the bench). The team has impressive depth and has a load of confidence. They look even better than last year when they won MLS Cup.

Speaking of rivalries, the LA Galaxy defeated LAFC to advance to the quarter-final of the Open Cup. LAFC wasn’t strong in this game and was undone when Carlos Vela was forced out of the game in the 20th minute due to an injury.


The big story for this game is that the Galaxy finally got production of out its designated players. The inability of its DP’s to contribute goals or assists is the biggest reason why the team is struggling. But in this game, Chicharito and Kevin Cabral each scored and it made things a lot easier on the team.

There were upsets and two of the eight final teams will come from USL League One’s Union Omaha and USL Championship Sacramento Republic.

Sacramento upset San Jose with a solid 2-0 win. San Jose is still a team trying to improve after Matias Almeyda. Things had been looking better for the Quakes but this was a step back. Meanwhile, Minnesota had 73% possession against Union Omaha and had most of the chances, but couldn’t capitalize. Meanwhile Union Omaha was opportunistic on the counterattack. When Reynoso is out of the lineup, Minnesota is very beatable.


Two cup finals in Europe


Two Americans were on opposite sides of domestic cup finals with spots in the Europa League qualifiers on the line.

Emmanuel Sabbi started and played 103 minutes in the Danish Cup final for OB Odense which lost in a shootout to Midtjylland after a 0-0 draw. Across all competitions for OB he has seven goals and five assists in 39 minutes. This was a tough loss because it would have been a great ending to an otherwise disappointing season for OB which had to play in the relegation half of the Superliga to end the season.

Mix Diskerud added silverware to his resume when his Omonia Nicosia defeated Ethnikos Achna in the Cypriot Cup final in a shootout after the game finished 0-0. Diskerud started and played 90 minutes and it was impressive after Omonia Nicosia was reduced to 10 players in just the fifth minute. 


Alvarado on the U-20 team?


Vizela FC announced that Alejandro Alvarado was called up to the U.S. U-20 team. The midfielder made four first-team appearances for Vizela for a total of 57 minutes in Portugal’s top flight.



 It remains to be seen if this is for the final roster for the CONCACAF U-20 tournament next month that will serve as qualifying for both the 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. But it is puzzling given that Alvarado had not played in any of the team’s four camps this cycle and hasn’t stood out at the club level. If he is on the team, it likely means that head coach Mikey Varas is really struggling with his releases. 


Koleosho called up by Canada


Luca Koleosho, 17, made his La Liga debut last weekend in the final game of the season when he played the final minute for Espanyol in a 0-0 draw with Grenada. Now the winger has been called up by Canada ahead of the Nations League.

There are a few things to know about this. First, Koleosho was born and raised in the United States in Connecticut. He moved overseas at an early age (he also holds an Italian passport) and his career progressed nicely. He had occasional U.S. youth national team invitations and was most recently with the U.S. U-19 team in April.

His mother was born in Canada and Koleosho told ASN in November was not involved or in contact with Canada at the time. Any kind of Canadian recruitment has been recently and it has been effective.

Koleosho will only be participating with Canada during the first nine days of camp and won’t be involved in any of the official Nations League games that would cap-tie him (or at least make him wait three years before he could switch if he doesn’t play more than three games).

The U.S. can still win over Koleosho because his reluctance to play official games with Canada speaks volumes. His ties to Canada aren’t too strong. But if the U.S. wants to win his allegiance, perhaps getting him involved with the U.S. U-20 team would be a strong play.

Saucedo to Toluca

American attacker Sebastian Saucedo was released by Pumas shortly after their loss to Seattle in the CONCACAF Champions League final 

Today, Saucedo signed with Toluca to remain in Liga MX. 



List of Yanks in European competitions 


Here is where we stand with Americans qualifying for European competitions next year.


Champions League Group Stages
  • Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
  • Zack Steffen (Manchester City)
  • Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic)
  • Weston McKennie (Juventus)
  • Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)
  • Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig)
  • Sergino Dest (Barcelona)
  • Konrad de la Fuente (Marseille)
  • Malik Tillman (Bayern Munich)
  • Timothy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt)


Champions League qualifiers
  • James Sands (Rangers)
  • Richard Ledezma (PSV)
  • Henry Wingo (Ferencvaros)
  • Josh Cohen (Maccabi Haifa)
  • Romain Gall (Malmo)


Europa League Group Stage
  • Cole Bassett (Feyenoord)


Europa League qualifiers
  • Mix Diskerud (Omonoia Nicosia)


Conference League qualifiers
  • Jordan Pefok (Young Boys)
  • Ian Harkes (Dundee United)
  • Joe Efford (Motherwell)
  • Sam Vines (Antwerp)*
  • Christian Cappis (Brondby)*
  • Omar Sowe (Breidablik)
  • Rokas Pukstas (Hadjuk Split)
  • Eduvie Ikoba (AS Trencin)*

* Pending outcome of domestic conference league playoff final


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