The new Americanised version of Leeds is in full force this season, a number of players joining Jesse Marsch from the USA this summer – Tyler Adams notably signing from Marsch’s former employers RB Leipzig, a player the Leeds boss will know fondly from his short stay in Germany.
Likewise, the second American addition who will have been high up Marsch’s list to get in this summer is Brenden Aaronson – the sort of signing that wouldn’t have looked out of place under the celebrated reign of Marcelo Bielsa, the young midfielder a bundle of energy on the pitch with the necessary skills to match. With a number of new signings replacing two huge outgoings – both Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha finally departing Elland Road – it’s up to the new kids on the block to entertain the Leeds masses this season.
These new signings all seem to fit the fabric of the club however, the Leeds fans demanding passion and fight on the pitch alongside obvious quality to win football matches. The opening game of this Premier League season saw that in spades, Leeds fighting back from an early setback to win 2-1 against Bruno Lage’s Wolves side. It’s similar on the dugout too, Jesse Marsch an intense footballer in his MLS playing days which has translated to some fiery encounters after games on the touchline – both Marsch and Lage squaring up to each other at full-time in the Wolves season opener, an intense end to a dramatic afternoon.
Brenden Aaronson stood out for Leeds in this high intensity contest, always running at opposition players throughout and wanting to seize on any error from the Wolves backline. The equalising goal on the day was Aaronson’s relentless energy paying off, pressuring the opposition defender into making an error – the young American midfielder then retrieved the ball after sticking a leg out, Rodrigo’s equalising goal coming soon after with the Spaniard’s shot creeping in under Jose Sa. Leeds’ new number 7 nearly scored beforehand too, an exchange of passes with fellow compatriot and new Leeds teammate Tyler Adams saw Aaronson fire from distance but a deflection intervened. After only 45 minutes of Premier League football, Aaronson was already showing he was cut out for the demands of the top flight in England – a high octane player with a constant supply of energy and drive to help his side.
The winner on the day was cruelly given as an Ait-Nouri own goal, but on another day, the final connection into the net would’ve been Aaronson’s – a neat exchange of passes finding Patrick Bamford on the wing before a pass into the centre of the box was bundled in by Ait-Nouri, the Wolves defender having to try and stop the relentless energy of Aaronson breathing down on him. A 2-1 win late on at Elland Road, the young American midfielder drafted in from Salzburg an instant hit with the die-hard Leeds contingent. Some might’ve seen this signing as one for the future – Aaronson only 21 years of age and used to the Austrian Bundesliga and MLS exclusively – but the fearlessness and bite in Aaronson’s debut performance showed that Leeds were correct in spending big bucks on their new American talent at this moment in time.
Watching over clips from his time at Salzburg, it’s clear why Leeds actively swooped for the American – a midfielder who makes everything look so effortless, gliding past players for fun in a Salzburg shift before either setting up a teammate for an effort on goal or finishing off the move himself. He would score an impressive nine goals in his one solitary season in Austria, a season that saw Aaronson become a regular player for his National side too. With 22 caps for the US Men’s team under his belt and his stock at an all-time high after a sensational season for RB Salzburg, Aaronson decided to follow in the footsteps of other American footballers such as Christian Pulisic and make a move across the pond to the Premier League.
Although Leeds showed their inability to hold onto a lead in their second Premier League match of the season – Southampton coming back to steal a point at St Marys – Leeds’ new number 7 impressed on the road. Early on in that 2-2 score draw, a corner kick routine put into the area by Brenden Aaronson nearly opened the scoring – a flicked on header finding another Salzburg recruit in Rasmus Kristensen, his effort unfortunately tame and scooped up by Gavin Bazunu in the Saints net. Another corner in the second 45 would however go in to make it 2-0, Rodrigo able to simply head home after an Aaronson delivery perfectly picked out the head of Struijk to assist the in-form Spaniard – a hit and miss player in-front of goal for the Whites the past few seasons, now three goals in two games for the ex Valencia striker early into this campaign with the first Leeds goal another simple strike for him.
Even without the likes of Raphinha twisting and turning defences for fun, it’s encouraging to see Leeds scoring goals and carving out opportunities without the Brazilian present anymore – the likes of Brenden Aaronson and co still giving Leeds that edge going forward, another new signing in Luis Sinisterra who is a tricky winger yet to be fully unleashed. But, the leaky Leeds defence that saw relegation become a possibility last season reared its ugly head once more in this contest. The Saints’ first goal of the afternoon saw Joe Aribo left completely unmarked after the ball found its way to the ex-Rangers man, Aribo cooly converting the opportunity after dancing around Meslier. The second goal and the heartbreaker on the day to equalise with nine minutes still to play saw Leeds napping again, a defence-splitting pass from Sekou Mara for Hasenhuttl’s men allowing Kyle Walker-Peters to finish past Meslier to make it 2-2. Leeds simply switched off and got punished, the entertaining side Marsch has constructed still weak defensively.
Still, with Leeds bolstering their side this summer, Jesse Marsch will be thoroughly impressed with a number of the new summer additions seamlessly fitting into the team and the demands of the Premier League – four points from six is a good return from the opening two matches, an impressive start after a relegation-threatened campaign last time out. In Brenden Aaronson, Leeds will hope the skill, bravery and tenacity of their new number 7 will help them pull off many more victories this season. In the absence of both Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha and rumours circulating about possible other departures from the Leeds squad, Aaronson could well become a new hero for the Leeds supporters at Elland Road to latch onto.