With transfer rumors swirling around the team’s 2018 MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long, the New York Red Bulls were unable to build on Sunday night’s exciting New York Derby win over cross-river rivals NYCFC, as they dropped a 3-1 decision at Toronto on Wednesday night.
Fox Sports’ commentator Brian Dunseth got the rumor mill churning during the broadcast of the Red Bulls 2-1 win over their Bronx based neighbors when he said that he has “been told there have been multiple offers, including a Premier League team offer, for Aaron Long.”
And while a jump to the Prem would be a big step for the 26-year-old center back, Long’s rise from twice cut second-round draft choice to MLS Defender of the Year and USMNT starter/Gold Cup Best 11 selection suggests that it would be unwise to bet against the athletic defender.
Long’s athleticism likely caught the eye of the scouts, as Long combines the speed and range of the midfielder he was until just a few seasons ago, with the power and strength in the air suggested by his 6’1” 190-pound frame.
Aaron Long Premier League Transfer Rumors
Not so very long ago the notion of Aaron Long as Premier League target would have been the longest of longshots. A second-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft by the Portland Timbers, Long never saw the field for the Timbers first team, instead featuring for Portland’s USL side before being released and picked up by the Seattle Sounders.
It was the same story in Seattle; USL, then cut; before the Red Bulls brought Long east on a USL deal, only to see the converted midfielder crowned the second division league’s 2016 Defender of the Year and earn a place with the big club for the 2017 campaign.
Long would add the 2018 MLS Defender of the Year to his trophy case while becoming a trusted regular on the U.S. National Team, having leapfrogged former Red Bull Matt Miazga on coach Gregg Berhalter’s center back depth chart.
Back to the Red Bulls vs TFC game…
Long, Tim Parker, and fullbacks Kemar Lawrence and Michael Murillo formed the league’s best back four, backstopping the Red Bulls to the top defensive performance in MLS last season.
With all but Parker on international duty and Parker missing time through injury in recent weeks, Wednesday night’s matchup with TFC was the quartets first match together in some time. It was a bit of a surprise then that New York conceded three times to Toronto, with two of the goals coming from defensive miscues from Lawrence and Murillo.
TFC opened the scoring with a sixth-minute gem of a backheel from Long’s U.S. teammate Jozy Altidore, a high-quality goal that left the N.Y. defenders blameless. The same could not be said on the next two TFC goals.
First Kemar Lawrence needlessly and obviously took out Toronto defender Richie Laryea with a slide tackle, gifting the home team a penalty kick that Alejandro Puzuelo neatly dispatched. Then, after Red Bulls striker Tom Barlow finished from a fine set up from Derrick Etienne, indecisive play by Murillo and goalkeeper Luis Robles combined to leave the ball at the feet of Toronto substitute Ashtone Morgan, with Morgan keen to punish the Red Bulls largesse.
It was a disappointing follow-up to Wednesday’s Derby success, although the lost points shouldn’t unduly worry the fourth-place Red Bulls – if they can hang on to Long.
Who takes Long’s place if he goes?
A move at this point in the season would be a tough one for the team to absorb, forcing coach Chris Armas to rely on Amro Tarek and rookie Sean Nealis to replace Long at the heart of the New York defense alongside Parker, while eliminating the three back set that the team used earlier in the season as a potential weapon for Armas to deploy.
A move for Long, to the Premier League or elsewhere in Europe, would further validate the Red Bulls as a conduit to the bigger leagues with Long joining Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), and Matt Miazga (Chelsea) as players who have used RBNY as a springboard to Europe.
Long is a different case, in that he did not come through the Red Bulls Academy, a sign that for the Red Bulls there is more than one way to make it to the promised land.