Aaron Long told MetroFanatic it was so, and it is so: the New York Red Bulls have signed the 2016 USL Defender of the Year to a first-team contract.
RBNY is the third MLS team Long has joined, but is expected to be the first to actually give him minutes on the field in MLS. Selected 36th overall in the 2014 SuperDraft by Portland Timbers (two picks after RBNY picked up Eric Stevenson), Long bounced to Seattle Sounders before the end of his rookie year. The Sounders made him part of their USL team in 2015, and he moved over to RBNY's II team in 2016. And it was during last season's record-setting NYRB II campaign in USL that Long emerged as an elite center back, at least by the standards of the league he was playing in.
As the MLS season progressed and RBNY never entirely shook off the injury bug that plagued its defenders, Long was loaned up to the first team and was handed three starts in the club's CONCACAF Champions League group stage campaign. RBNY conceded one goal en route to the CCL quarterfinals. Fittingly, perhaps, Long is expected to keep his place in the Red Bulls' starting lineup for the team's opening match of the knockout rounds.
On the same day his place in the first team squad was officially announced, it is widely expected Long will start for RBNY against Vancouver Whitecaps in CCL.
The 24-year-old told MetroFanatic at RBNY's Media Day that he'd never played as a defender prior to joining RBNY, and had agreed - in effect - to a one-year trial at the position at the suggestion of Red Bulls' head coach Jesse Marsch. It worked out perhaps better than either player or coach had imagined it might.