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After a successful March camp, Aaronson eyes international breakthrough at the Paris Olympics

The United States will take part in the Olmypics this summer for the first time in 16 years and Paxten Aaronson was a huge reason the team ended the drought. Now the New Jersey native, currently on loan with Vitesse, hoping that the Paris Games will give him the opportunity to represent his country on the global stage.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
April 05, 2024
10:55 AM

OVER THE PAST few years, Paxten Aaronson has been considered one of the top young American players in the game. He shined at the 2022 CONCACAF U-20 Championships where he won the tournament’s Golden Ball after leading the U.S. team to a title which included successfully qualifying for the 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.

Since then, however, Aaronson has continued to develop but most of it has come out of the eyesight of big games. When he returned to the Philadelphia Union after the CONCACAF title, he played sparingly – for just 447 minutes in the 2022 season.

Then in January 2023, he made a high profile move to Eintracht Frankfurt and for the rest of the season while getting adjusted to Germany, he made just seven substitute appearances.

But Eintracht also made a run to the German Cup final and the club felt it could not afford to release Aaronson to the U.S. team for the U-20 World Cup and the Medford, NJ native was forced to miss out on the big event.

“With the U-20 World Cup, I was there through every camp,” Aaronson told ASN. “I had the honor to be a part of that group that helped qualify for the Olympics and the World Cup. I just became very close with the coaching staff and players. It obviously gutted me that I couldn't be there. Under circumstances, we were playing in the German Cup final, which is also a once in a lifetime opportunity. Now having a second chance to compete in a major tournament in the Olympics, I would be super excited if given the opportunity.”

As Eintracht’s 2023/24 season started, minutes were again up and down for Aaronson. He didn’t play much in the Bundesliga but saw more minutes in the Conference League. When 2024 set in, Eintracht decided it needed to send Aaronson on loan to Vitesse in the Eredivisie to get him needed minutes.

Since arriving, Aaronson has indeed been a regular for Vitesse in the middle of their relegation battle. Despite the team’s struggles, he has been playing well and he likes the Eredivisie style.

“In the Eredivisie, if I receive the ball higher up on the pitch and I'm driving at the defenders, they will kind of drop back,” Aaronson said. “In the Bundesliga I was used to them just sprinting out at me and then having to make a 1v1 whereas in the Eredivisie, they kind of just sit back and make you make the decision."

“In the Bundesliga, when you receive the ball anywhere on the pitch, people are flying at you on your back,” he added. “You have zero time to turn and face the opposition. In the Eredivise, it’s more ball-possession based. They take care of the ball well, they're all super technical. I was really impressed that just about every team in the league plays really well and takes the ball really well.”

But the loan is also teaching Aaronson a lot about what it is like to play for a club that is desperate. Vitesse are five points from the playoff and are just looking to scrap by and remain in the top tier.

“For me it was an important step in my career to kind of just go somewhere for six months, get a run of games - and I have so far,” Aaronson said. “I joined the club when they were last. I knew it was going to be an absolute dogfight. In terms of development, it was a great step. Every game is a final. It teaches you how to just battle it out, how to how to fight - what it means to the club, what it means to the fans, I think to going to training every day and fighting every game for people, not even for yourself, but people on the staff. If you do go down, they’re uncertain of their future. I'm there to help the club succeed and hopefully get out of the relegation zone.”


The international side of the game is also heavily on Aaronson’s mind these days. After missing the U-20 World Cup last year, Aaronson has his mind set on the Olympics. This will be the U.S. team’s first appearance at the Games since 2008 after failing to qualify the last three tournaments.

Aaronson’s performance in 2022 was a big reason why the team ended its drought and now he wants to be there to lead the team. The tournament will also give him a chance to breakout internationally on a global stage outside of CONCACAF.

Aaronson recently took part in the U.S. U-23 Olympic team’s March camp where it defeated Guinea 3-0 and then fought back to draw France in Sochaux 2-2 in a game where Aaronson started. Last fall, he was part of the opening Olympic camp where the U.S. defeated both Mexico and Japan.

After this most recent camp, he believes that the team is progressing very well under coach Marko Mitrovic ahead of the final camp in June before the tournament kicks off on July.

“I've seen a lot of progression,” Aaronson said. “When you get a group together in such short time, it's all about getting as much information as possible and kind of grasping it as much as you can. I like where it's gone. Coach Marco's a great guy from the first camp we had with him. I just really liked his directness and just kind of how quickly he got everybody on board. When you have a leader in the coach that gets his point across clearly and everybody backs him, it just makes the team stronger and brings out more belief.”

While Aaronson was at the most recent camp, he also witnessed the Olympic draw where the U.S. team was placed into a group with France, New Zealand, and an Asian/African playoff winner. The most exciting part is that the U.S. team will take on hosts France in the tournament at Marseille’s famed Vélodrome with a capacity near 70,000.

“It's exciting for everyone,” Aaronson said. “What a great environment. What a great way to enter, your name in the tournament after not being there for a really long time - against France, the host country, in Marseilles Stadium, which is a beautiful stadium. It's going to be an awesome game and an awesome introduction to the tournament. I know that everybody is looking forward to that.”

There is more optimism that Eintracht will allow him to go to the Olympics given that it is in preseason and Eintracht still wants to make sure Aaronson is playing in important games.

But making that team would also allow him to reconnect with friends at the Philadelphia Union. Even after leaving the Union, his ties to the club are strong and it stems from being part of an impressive wave of young players that have flowed from that club’s academy the past decade - starting with his older brother Brenden Aaronson and Mark Mckenzie followed by Aaronson’s generation which included Jack McGlynn, Brandon Craig, Nathian Harriel, and Quinn Sullivan.

And even below this group, the Union also has a heavy presence on the new U-17 and U-20 cycles.

“It's great being back with these guys,” Aaronson said of reuniting with his former Union teammates McGlynn and Harriel at the last U-23 camp. “Jack's my roommate. I'm always in contact with Jack and Nate. Whenever I can watch the Union play, I watch. But just being back on the field with Jack and Nate is special playing with these guys. At the U-20s too with Quinn and Brandon Craig, we just had a special chemistry on the field. With every youth national team, you always see Philly Union guys. Everybody knows the Union does a really good job of just developing young talent and setting them on the right path… I know that there's a lot more guys coming up through the ranks.”

The months ahead will be challenging for Aaronson. He will attempt to lead Vitesse to survival and then try to earn a bigger role with Eintracht for the 2024/25 season. But between that is the Olympics, which are a huge priority for Aaronson to leave a mark on the global stage.

“In terms of the soccer world, maybe some people see other tournaments as bigger,” Aaronson said. “But at the end of the day when you hear the title Olympics, it just catches everybody's ear. No matter the circumstances of the sport. For me, even growing up I was always watching events like snowboarding. These kinds of things were always on in the Olympics. Then the NBA guys went to the Olympics. The kind of stature and the status is something for me that would be a true honor to represent my country in the Olympics. It’s not something many people do.”

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