EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – Almost two years after raising the USL Cup as a member of the New York Red Bulls II came a night that Aaron Long won’t soon forget.
But in making his debut for the U.S. Men’s National Team on Tuesday night against Peru at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, the 2016 USL Defender of the Year looked far from a player that was making his first appearance for the United States at any competitive level, earning positive reviews after the 1-1 draw that saw him form a stable central unit with Tottenham Hotspur youngster Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Aaron Long was the top performer for #USMNT:— #ThankYouDeuce (@JogaBonito_USA) October 17, 2018
37/43 (86%) passes
Good positioning and strong defending by the #RBNY centerback, as he's shown all year in #MLS. Solid international debut. pic.twitter.com/nFGUQeBQiX
Long maintained good positions throughout much of the contest that allowed him to make six clearances, five recoveries and go through the 90 minutes without committing a foul. That helped the United States absorb a good amount of pressure from World Cup side Peru, especially in the first half.
“The first 10, 15 minutes we were trying to see what they were trying to do and evaluate the game,” Long told MLSSoccer.com. “We took a lot of pressure, but I think we defended well in the first half. We couldn’t really get out of our half, but we did well to limit them.”
Long also played a role in the United States’ early-second half goal by Josh Sargent, pulling defenders with him to the near post on a hard run that set up a pocket of space in the center of the penalty area for the 18-year-old former Saint Louis U23 player to put home his second goal for his country.
“We ran that play yesterday, I think we went three for three in training, so we were like ‘if we get the chance, let’s give him the ball in that position,’ and he put it away,” said Long. “[Sargent is] one of those guys, even in training he has a knack around the goal and in the box.”
Long’s debut for the United States comes toward the end of a season that has already seen him make his 50th MLS regular-season appearance and feature for the MLS All-Star Team against Juventus earlier this summer. A former PDL standout with FC Tucson, Long experienced stops with the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders FC – where he played for Sounders FC 2 in its inaugural season – before his breakout year with the Red Bulls II.
As the U.S. team builds toward the new year and a busy 2019 that will include the return of the Concacaf Gold Cup, the groundwork that has been put in over the past six months is hopefully going to pay dividends for the side as the young squad continues to come together.
Every game we’re taking another step, learning new things, learning new players, how people play,” said Long. “Every game we’re taking steps forward and we feel like we accomplished something tonight.”