Medford’s own Paxten Aaronson joined special company earlier this month after he scored his first career goal in his first Major League Soccer start as a member of the Philadelphia Union.
Aaronson’s goal during the 31st minute against the New England Revolution tied the game and was the team’s lone goal on the night. The 17-year-old became one of four people to have scored during their first start while coming through the franchise’s Homegrown program, which allows MLS teams to sign local players at a young age and develop them through the club’s various youth teams.
Also on the exclusive list is Brenden Aaronson, Paxten’s older brother, who played for two seasons with the Union before joining FC Red Bull Salzburg in Austria.
The moment of his first goal with the Union, Aaronson said, felt surreal and is still difficult to describe.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Aaronson said. “Everything that I’d ever worked for in my life led to that moment. You always go through struggles and you always go through setbacks, and it’s all about the perseverance of being able to keep going.
“To be able to get the start and share the field with some of the older guys that I’ve been watching since I was a little kid, and then to even be able to score later on in that game … it’s just a feeling of realizing that I’m finally beginning to accomplish everything I’ve dreamed of my entire life,” Aaronson added.
His “high-school” experience hasn’t been a traditional one, since the soon-to-be senior at YSC Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania graduated from Medford Memorial Middle School and joined the academy with the hope of pursuing a professional soccer career rather than attending Shawnee High School.
The decision to go that route, Aaronson admits, was a difficult one that he knew he had to make if he truly wanted to chase his dream of playing professional soccer.
“When I first joined the academy, I knew it was a big step because I’d be leaving all my friends and not be going with them to Shawnee,” Aaronson said. “But I knew it was a step I wanted to take in order to be a professional.
“My situation is definitely unique, but it’s helped for the better,” he added. “My pathway is different from most typical high-school kids, and I’m still friends with all my Shawnee friends. And they always say they wish I would come play there for a year, but when I was little, I wanted to become a pro and I had to make sacrifices for that to happen and that was one of them.”
Aaronson looks forward to getting as many minutes and starts as possible as the season continues, while helping the Union on their way to the playoffs. Over time, he hopes to see individual accolades — like goals and assists — add up as well, but his main emphasis is being on the field and helping the Union win in any way possible.
The best result, Aaronson noted, would be to follow in his brother’s footsteps and play overseas in the years ahead.
“What I want most in my career, like what I think most young Americans want in theirs as well, is to play abroad one day, since a lot of the top leagues are over there,” Aaronson said. “That’s definitely a goal in the long run that I hope to accomplish in the future.”