USL defender of the year Aaron Long will play with the big boys in MLS. (Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Agency)

By Michael Lewis

Front Row Soccer Editor

Only hours prior to the kickoff of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal Wednesday night, the Red Bulls shored up their central defense by signing Aaron Long to a Major League Soccer contract.

A member of the United Soccer League championship side and USL defender of the year in 2016, the 24-year-old Long joins Aurelien Collin, Damien Perrinelle, Gideon Long and Hassan Ndam, a Cameroon Under-20 player, at center back.

“We are pleased to add Aaron to our MLS roster,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said in a statement. “Aaron has shown a lot of development over the last year and has earned this opportunity. This is also a very proud moment for the club as we successfully transition another player from our USL team to a first-team contract.”

Long, who made three appearances in the group stage of the CCL while on loan from Red Bulls II to the Red Bulls last year, joined the organization last year as a trialist.

The 6-2, 172-lb. defender became the center piece of the Red Bull II defense, making 22 appearances.

It was not known whether Long would dress or be in the Starting XI for the CCL quarterfinal first leg against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Red Bull Arena at 8 p.m. Wednesday.