U.S. soccer: Brenden Aaronson on frigid game in St. Paul, his transition in Germany and Loons’ Caden Clark

Brenden Aaronson has had an eventful calendar year, but there is familiarity for him in St. Paul.

The 22-year-old played four games for the U.S. in the World Cup in Qatar and then went on loan from English club Leeds United to Union Berlin in the German Bundesliga.

The Medford, N.J., native played in the frigid World Cup qualifier at Allianz Field in February 2022 and will be back here for the U.S. friendly against Oman on Tuesday night.

Aaronson, who has an assist in the U.S.’s 3-0 friendly victory over Uzbekistan in St. Louis on Saturday, said there is comfort to be back with returning head coach Gregg Berhalter and so many friendly faces as teammates wearing red, white and blue.

Aaronson chatted with the Pioneer Press last week:

Let’s begin with the World Cup qualifier in Minnesota. You’re on the bench to start that game. Temperatures are below zero. How cold do you get?

I can remember that came pretty clearly it was probably the coldest game in my life. But to see people come out and just be there for us, to experience the game like that was something I’ll never forget. It was difficult, but I think it showed the team, the team spirit and how together we are to get through and get the win (3-0 over Honduras).

Did you start to lose feeling in your hands or toes or anything like that?

It was harder being on the bench. They had blankets and hand warmers and toe warmers and stuff, but it still didn’t do enough.

How did how did the transition go fir you from Leeds to Union Berlin?

Yeah, great. I’ve really, really enjoyed being in Union Berlin so far. Of course, I got the red card in the second week, which was pretty annoying to get that because I had been starting and playing games. So that was pretty annoying. But, I mean, that’s how football goes. You know, I’m not going to not get one. I’ll probably get more red cards. I don’t want to. but it probably will happen throughout my career. (But) it was a great start and the club has really taken me (into) the family. and I’m really happy to be here.

Do you have the Nov. 4 game circled against Frankfurt? (Aaronson’s brother Paxten, 20, now plays for Eintracht Frankfurt.)

I think my whole family has that game circled because not many people can say that they played against their brother in the Bundesliga. So I’m really, really excited. It’s amazing. I’ve seen him in Germany already. So it’s great being so close to your brother and having someone out there with you. It’s really good.

Has there been any sort of trash talk between you guys?

There’s always trash talk between us because we’re brothers. The bickering never stops with everything. But with the games, honestly, we haven’t thought about us playing Frankfurt yet. So yeah, it’s a little bit farther away. But I’m sure when it gets closer, there’ll be some trash talking.

Matt Turner made some headlines recently, talking about being in England and having a tough time at Arsenal, wanting a fresh start somewhere and saying it’s hard to get back in especially if you’re not English. With your time at Leeds, with you and Weston (McKinnie) and Tyler (Adams) and Jesse (Marsch), did you feel like there was a different standard for American players in the UK?

No, I wouldn’t say it was a different standard. I don’t know how coaching was, but as a player, it was good. I enjoyed my time. I learned a lot. It was definitely ups and downs. The first half of the year was really a high, and I think we played we’re playing really good football at the time. And then just the second part of the year, stuff happens. It was tough. A lot of things going on with the club, people that aren’t seeing things, so it’s tough. I learned a lot and it only made me grow as a player because a lot of players go through stuff like this and it only gets better from there.

There is so much more attention and focus on MLS now with Lionel Messi here. What are you seeing about MLS while you are in Germany? How is the league seen now with Messi in it?

Looking from afar and watching all the games, I think I wake up every morning in Germany and I see the highlights and I see Messi scored or Messi got an assists. It’s amazing to see. Of course, I still pay attention to how the Philadelphia Union are doing. It’s awesome to see how the league is going. And I think the popularity of it has only gone up. It’s really fun to watch, and it’s really cool to see Messi and all of them in the United State doing his thing. And so many people showing up to all the games. So I think only the hype has gotten bigger. It’s great to see.

Is the ‘Medford Messi’ nickname for you still around? Or is that something from the outside?

(Laughs.) I would say probably dying down, I think, just because of leaving home and stuff like that. I think I see it sometimes in articles or stuff like that. But other than that, not so much. I was never called that growing up, like for my friends. It was more nicknames. But yeah, it’s just funny that nickname came about in the first place.

Minnesota United is bringing in Caden Clark, U.S. international on the youth level. He was with Leipzig for a bit, but it didn’t work out for him and now he’s coming back to Minnesota. What did you feel like were the biggest things that you had to adjust to abroad?

It’s not easy. It’s not easy for a lot of guys. It wasn’t easy for me, either. Everybody that you’ll talk to on the national team, or anybody that’s over there. I think it’s everybody had the same experience. It was really tough. You’re over there by yourself, you don’t have the ability to go two hours by flight and see your family. It’s not like that. It’s really tough. I mean, you have to learn a lot. You have to find hobbies, you have to find stuff to do, because a lot of the time you’re by yourself, and I was by myself for two and a half years doing a long-distance relationship (with his girlfriend). So it’s tough, but it makes you grow. And I think that’s the biggest thing about it.

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