Aaron Long: “I’ve been in these situations before so it’s kind of easy for me to leave most of that stuff to my agent and just work on being here.” (Photo courtesy of MLS)
By Michael Lewis
Even when you’re living in a bubble, there can be plenty of distractions, some good, some bad.
During his time in U.S. national team camp the past three weeks, Red Bulls center back Aaron Long can relate to that.
Only days prior to the team meeting Trinidad & Tobago in a friendly in Orlando, Fla. Sunday, Long has two distractions. Rumors and reports are floating around that he could be heading overseas on a short-term loan to a European club as Liverpool keeps popping up.
And then there’s the possibility of Major League Soccer declaring a lockout of its players due to contentious Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.
Long knows only one thing – focus, focus on the matter at hand, as in the game.
“I’ve been in these situations before so it’s kind of easy for me to leave most of that stuff to my agent and just work on being here with, with the national team and doing business and training hard and getting the best out of myself and my teammates and looking forward to Trinidad,” he said during a Zoom conference call with the media Saturday. “So that part I think a little bit of experience comes in and yeah just kind of pushing that to the side and not really looking at it and not dwelling on it too much.”
But let’s say Long isn’t loaned and stays with the Red Bulls. MLS wants to shut down the league Thursday, Feb. 4 if no CBA is finalized.
Long, who has made 18 international appearances, said the threat of a lockout has not influenced his thinking on pursuing a loan.
“I think it’s all the same to me whether there is or is not a lockout,” he said. “I’ve always been hopeful to play in Europe one day so that is kind of my stance on that situation.”
The 28-year-old Long said that he and USMNT teammates have discussed the CBA negotiations.
“We’d have a little bit of time to talk about that,” he said. “A lot of guys here are board members of their teams. So, a lot of us are on calls. When we get out of our rooms, we talked about it quickly. But we don’t like to dwell on it too much. We just get the information that’s given to us, pass it along to our teammates.”
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said he was impressed with the leadership center backs Walker Zimmerman and Long have shown over the past several weeks. Both players are part of the Leadership Council in the camp.
“I can’t say enough about the two players and their leadership, their consistent leadership,” he said. “They both have really good attitudes. They both work hard. They both set the tone, but also know how to have fun, how to laugh, know how to keep the group motivated and keep the group laughing.”
Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson, an Under-23 national team candidate to start during Concacaf Olympic men’s qualifying in March, and Long will start at center back vs. the Soca Warriors, Berhalter said.
“It’s really an opportunity for Miles to get his first international start,” the coach added. “He’s done really well in camp, but also develop, and prepare for you for Olympic qualifying. That’s a really important event for us. It’s his opportunity to show that he can also lead a group and lead from the back.”