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Union Homegrowns Abroad: Jack de Vries building confidence, Aaronson rolling and McKenzie battling for more minutes

A look back at how Union homegrowns fared in Europe in September

FC Red Bull Salzburg v Lille OSC: Group G - UEFA Champions League Photo by Jasmin Walter - FC Red Bull Salzburg/FC Red Bull Salzburg via Getty Images

Last month, Brenden Aaronson continued to show why he is an integral part of Red Bull Salzburg’s on-the-field success and Mark McKenzie battled for playing time at Genk in Belgium. September also saw a new addition to the homegrowns abroad, with Jack de Vries being sent on loan to Venezia FC and featuring heavily for their U19 team. As Aaronson and McKenzie look to build on the USMNT’s strong performance in a 2-0 win over Jamaica (where Aaronson earned an assist), let’s check in on our Union homegrowns’ European adventures.

Brenden Aaronson

Aaronson’s name seems to be written in pen on Matthias Jaissle’s team sheet for both domestic and European competition. As the attacking midfielder in Salzburg’s 4-4-2—a role he is intimately familiar with from his time with the Union—Aaronson notched yet another stoppage time goal in a 2-0 win over Bundesliga rivals Rapid Wien, earning man of the match honors. In a 3-1 win over LASK, he chalked up an assist from a cross-field pass to Nicholas Capaldo, who slotted in the game’s first goal. While Aaronson didn’t appear on the score sheet in Salzburg’s Champions League group stage 1-1 draw at Sevilla or 2-1 win against Lille, his relentless pressing and ability to create chances were crucial to both results.

With Salzburg 10-0-0 in domestic play and top of their group in the Champions League, teams across Europe are taking notice. Aaronson’s teammate Karim Adeyemi (11 goals and 2 assists in 14 games across all competitions this year) is currently in the spotlight of big-name clubs like Liverpool and Bayern Munich. With Aaronson’s strong performances this season (3 goals and 3 assists across all competitions for Salzburg), the former Union homegrown is also beginning to draw interest and is rumored to have caught the attention of AC Milan.

Mark McKenzie

McKenzie continues to fight for minutes as he moves in and out of Genk’s lineup. He featured significantly three times last month: coming in at the 46th minute during a 1-1 draw against Union Saint-Gilloise and playing the full 90 in a 2-1 win at STVV and a 3-0 win against RFC Seraing. In the Europa League, he came on in the 93rd minute of Genk’s 1-0 win at Rapid Wien but did not play in their 3-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb. Genk are currently fifth in the Belgian First Division, three points off the league leader, Eupen—the team they lost to before the start of the international break.

Jack de Vries

As the newest member of the Union abroad club (and the most difficult to keep track of—information on the Campionato Primavera 2 is not easy to come by) de Vries has gotten off to a strong start with his new team, playing at right wing and at left and right central midfield. He scored a brace in Venezia U19’s 7-1 rout of Entella U19 and tallied an assist in their 2-1 loss in the Coppa Italia Primavera to Verona U19. That strong start hit a slight hiccup, however, when he was shown a red card in the team’s 2-2 draw at Brescia. Venezia U19 is now 2nd in the Primavera table with 8 points and a +13 goal differential. Time will tell if de Vries’s performance on the field earns him a call up to Venezia’s senior side to play alongside fellow Americans Gianluca Busio (who scored a late equalizer against Cagliari—his first Serie A goal) and Tanner Tessman.

What’s Next

After Aaronson and McKenzie return from World Cup Qualifying, they jump back into tough European competition, with Salzburg facing off against Wolfsburg in the Champions League and Genk taking on West Ham in the Europa League.

Auf Wiedersehen, tot ziens, arrivederci!