Red Bulls sign MLS Defender of the Year Long to contract extension

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The defender has been rewarded for a journey that saw him rise from the third tier of U.S. Soccer to be named the top player in his position

Reigning MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long has signed a contract extension with the New York Red Bulls, the club announced on Monday.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, though reports indicate it is a three-year extension.

The Red Bulls did confirm the club used targeted allocation money in order to complete the deal.

“This club gave me the opportunity I always wanted, and I will be forever grateful for that,” 26-year-old Long said in a statement. “These coaches believed in me and allowed me to blossom into the player I am today. I will do everything I can to get silverware for this club.”

The new deal is a reward for a player who has risen through the Red Bulls system to reach the heights of MLS – a journey which took him through the top three levels of American soccer.

Long was originally selected in the second round of the 2014 MLS Superdraft by the Portland Timbers but never featured in a league game for the club.

Instead, he went on loan to the Sacramento Republic of the USL, then in the third tier of U.S. Soccer. He also played for Orange County SC, also of the USL, in 2014. 

After being released by the Timbers, Long stayed in the Pacific Northwest with the Seattle Sounders, but again did not feature in MLS for the senior side, instead playing exclusively with the USL affiliate for three seasons.

Long would then sign with the Red Bulls II, the MLS side’s USL affiliate, in 2016, and after being moved from midfield to central defence, went on to thrive.

He would win the 2016 USL defender of the year, along with helping his side win both the USL regular season and USL Cup. He also made his debut for the MLS side that season, coming in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Long would earn himself a permanent place for the MLS club in 2017, starting 30 games for the team that term.

2018 would prove a true breakout for Long, as he started 31 games at the heart of defence for a Red Bulls side that won the Supporters’ Shield and broke the MLS regular season points record.

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His exploits in 2018 also earned Long the award for the league’s defender of the year.

The defender’s work this season saw him called up for his first appearances for the U.S. national team in October, as he made his debut as a starter in a 1-1 draw with Peru.

He has since gone on to make three more appearances with the national team and started both friendlies under new USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter.

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