Bring on the “Medford Messi.” That’s the nickname fans give midfielder Brenden Aaronson, who is representing New Jersey and the United States Men’s National Team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup taking place in Qatar starting next week.
Aaronson’s Medford, N.J. upbringing and similarity to his favorite player, Argentinian star player Lionel Messi, sparked the unique alliteration. Any comparison to Messi, considered one of the greatest players of all time, is high praise.
The nickname acknowledges Aaronson’s fairy-tale path to soccer’s most coveted stage.
And his two biggest fans, parents Parents Rusty and Janell Aaronson, have been watching and supporting their son every step of the way. PlayNJ caught up with his dad prior to the family flying to Qatar.
Fans in Medford 👋 https://t.co/BIZmiv2aKD
— Carli Lloyd (@CarliLloyd) November 15, 2022
Aaronson brings ‘tenacious and ferocious’ style to World Cup
When Aaronson was being considered for the US Men’s National Team, he told US soccer officials how honored he would be to represent his family and his country on soccer’s highest stage.
He made the grade and his parents are making the trip.
“As a player, Brenden is tenacious and he is ferocious,” Rusty Aaronson told PlayNJ days before leaving for Qatar. “He doesn’t have an off switch on the field. He typifies a true competitor. When the whistle blows, he grows fangs.”
When the whistle stops, another aspect emerges.
“Off the field he is the nicest kid you’ve ever seen,” Rusty said. “He has no idea how big he is. He has no idea how popular he is. Brenden makes time for everybody.”
His father added the family has left his son’s room “just as it’s always been in Medford.”
“He doesn’t wear Rolex. He doesn’t wear Gucci. He’s a kid who grew up in Medford, N.J. and is as humble as the day is long,” Rusty said. “A lot of people who reach his level want to take big journeys all over the world. Brendan wants to come back here.”
Brenden’s evolution has been a family affair. His Dad, now 55, played soccer at Monmouth University and later in the semi-pro ranks, as professional soccer had fewer outlets than now.
Rusty helped run Real Jersey FC to spend time with his children and introduce them to a game he loved. They all took to it.
Brenden’s younger brother Paxten Aaronson played for the Philadelphia Union. And his team played in this month’s MSL Cup final against the champion Los Angeles Football Club. Younger sister Jaden currently plays soccer for Shawnee High School.
US Men’s National Team Group B World Cup schedule
Here are the dates and times when New Jersey soccer fans will have opportunities to see Aaronson and his United States men’s soccer team in action. All games start at 2 p.m. EST. on Fox.
- Monday, Nov. 21, 2 p.m. versus Wales,
- Friday, Nov. 25, 2 p.m. versus England
- Tuesday, Nov. 29 versus Iran
Aaronson’s World Cup path started with Real Jersey FC
Long before reaching it, Medford Messi was once just a kid, learning the game at the Real Jersey FC Club run by his father. That led to one year at Shawnee and a decision to go all in on soccer.
Aaronson transferred to the Philadelphia Union’s YSC Academy in Wayne, Pa. and spread wings. The academy is designed for student-athletes who want to play professional level soccer. It doubles as a recruitment tool for the Union.
The polished midfielder played for the Union, and then Austria’s top club team Red Bull Salzburg. He was later picked up by Leeds United of the prestigious English Premier League, the soccer equivalent of the NFL.
Aaronson lives in England and plays for that team, but for at least the next two weeks he represents the USA, New Jersey and Medford.
Brenden Aaronson’s soccer career generates a “WOW!” reaction
Brenden Aaronson has an instinct for the game that can’t be taught. His intangibles include hustle and anticipation.
Aaronson puts himself where he thinks the ball should go. He is a gifted playmaker.
“Early on he had the drive most kids don’t have.” Rusty said. “You could just tell he was in love with the game. He practiced on his own, away from me, he was just constant motion. He kept doing things that just made me feel like ‘Wow!’”
And those “WOW’S!” started piling up. His parents were among the first Philadelphia Union ticket-holders. And it’s where they watched their two sons play for the team.
The wow factor spanned Brenden’s run through Austria and now England. Rusty has flown to England several times to see his son play. Now, his parents are making their first trip to Qatar.
Of course, the most recent “Wow” moment took place Nov. 8. This would be they day Aaronson learned he would be joining the US Men’s National team in Qatar.
“When we found out Qatar was hosting the World Cup, we thought ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be something to go over there and actually play it in it?,’ Rusty said.
Well, wow, the family is now in Qatar.
2022 FIFA World Cup overview
The World Cup is taking place in November and December to accommodate Qatar’s brutal summer temperatures. And it happens to be the first time ever that the World Cup is being held in the Middle East. The extravaganza usually occurs in June, every four years.
Thirty-two nations make up the field competing in the Group Stage from Nov. 21-29. The knockout round follows Dec. 3-18.
The Group Stage is a round robin between four teams in eight groups. Teams with the two highest point totals (three points for a win, one point for a draw), advance into the single-elimination knockout round.
The United States competes in the B Group. England is considered the class of this foursome. The question is whether the United States can slip past Wales and Iran to obtain second.
We will know early.
A quick look at the 2022 FIFA World Cup odds
Looking this month’s World Cup from a NJ sports betting perspective, Brazil is the early favorite with +350 odds while England is +900. However, here is where it gets interesting regarding the group stage.
DraftKings Sportsbook has the US at +13000 (130-1) to win the Cup. Wales is +20000 (200-1) and Iran is +50000 (500-1). Based on the people who scout and analyze talent, the United States has every reason to believe it can reach the Round of 16.
Aaronson, incidentally, is good enough to be the source of a wager with +350 odds to score anytime against Wales and +850 to tally first.
However, no matter how many goals he does or doesn’t score, “Medford Messi” has already made all of New Jersey proud.