UPDATE (Jan. 2): The Sounders are apparently one of two teams still vying for Long’s services.
As MLS free agency continues to evolve, the field of available players should only get stronger. Last year, the Seattle Sounders became the first team to sign a Designated Player through that process when they lured Albert Rusnák away from Real Salt Lake. This year’s field includes quite a few intriguing options, with New York Red Bulls centerback Aaron Long being near the top.
The Sounders are among the teams who “in the mix” for Long’s services, according to a report in Pro Soccer Wire. The Red Bulls are believed to be the team most likely to sign Long, but Seattle, the LA Galaxy, Inter Miami and Colorado Rapids are also apparently interested.
Possibly working in the Sounders’ favor is that Long has played in the organization. Although he didn’t make an appearance, he was signed to a first-team deal in 2014 and then transitioned to Sounders 2 in 2015. Long was the S2 captain that year and also began his transition from defensive midfielder to centerback. The following year he signed with the Red Bulls organization, leading their USL team to a championship and winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.
By 2017, Long had established himself as a MLS starter and was a driving force behind the Red Bulls’ Supporters’ Shield run in 2018. That’s also when he first broke into the United States national team. Although he didn’t actually play during the World Cup, he has been a regular starter when healthy.
Long’s been most effective when he’s allowed to use his athleticism, especially when pressing and in the air.
One reason to be a little skeptical of this report is that the Sounders already have two TAM-level contracts at centerback. Unless one of Yeimar Gomez Andrade or Xavier Arreaga move this offseason, it’s hard to imagine the Sounders using what salary cap flexibility they have on Long, who would likely require a high TAM contract.
*This story was first published on Dec. 3, 2021 and was updated.