In the buildup to the USMNT's friendly against Morocco, with the countdown to the World Cup now well and truly on, one of the most intriguing eye tests was the American midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Brenden Aaronson against fellow World Cup contender Morocco.
The three will be linchpins of the squad over the next decade, but the 21-year-old Aaronson was playing a new central role for the United States after previously being stationed on the left or right wing of Gregg Berhalter's 4-3-3 formation.
The manager's decision wasn't radical — Aaronson was deployed centrally at his club side RB Leipzig throughout the 2021-22 season — but it did pose interesting questions going forward with the likes of Adams, Musah, Weston McKennie, Luca de la Torre and Kellyn Acosta having previously dominated the midfield selections.
The fact is, it's basically impossible to leave Aaronson off the field at this point. His ability propelled Leeds to finally land him for over $30 million, and his numbers showcase why he's a perfect fit for the high-octane Premier League. Apart from scoring and creating at a high rate, Aaronson stood apart in the Austrian Bundesliga, the Champions League and world football in distance covered this past year.
That rare blend of control and aggression was on display Wednesday as Aaronson put both of his shots on target, scored one, completed 90.3% of his passes — including a match-leading three passes leading to opportunities — and contested more duels (13) than anyone else while also winning a higher percentage (69.2%) than any other outfield player.
He's an entirely different animal.
THE TOUCH AND ASSIST BY PULISIC TO AARONSON pic.twitter.com/y5hq1gKbIA— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 1, 2022
The call will now sound for Aaronson to play centrally, which is entirely logical and justified, but it also requires a rethink of personnel or formation. We have a lot of players that can find pockets of space and hurt the opposition, but we're going to need players that want to work and defend against England and Wales/Ukraine.
Thankfully Aaronson is one that can do both.