Just six months ago, Aiden McFadden was preparing for the second half of an unorthodox collegiate season with Notre Dame.
The West Chester, Pennsylvania native was in his senior year, with his mind set on using his extra season next fall in South Bend. Flash forward to present day, and McFadden is Atlanta United 2’s leading scorer in the USL Championship as a winger and right back.
How did his abrupt ascendancy to the professional ranks begin? An MLS SuperDraft he didn’t even register for.
“Usually you have to put your name in the draft so you can get picked. I didn’t, I was planning on coming back for a fifth year. Because of the way the season worked with COVID, you could just get picked,” McFadden said.
The Notre Dame star was told by a friend that he was on a draft shortlist just a day before it began in January, but didn’t think much of it... until his phone blew up in the third round when 2018 MLS Cup champions Atlanta United selected him as the 59th overall pick.
McFadden finished the season out in South Bend before departing to the dirty south. While he never envisioned being a professional until this time next year, he has been nothing short of a revelation.
Formerly a youth member of the West Chester United and Penn Fusion setups, McFadden has always been an attack minded player. Since joining Atlanta United’s reserve team in the USL Championship, he has fit their mold, playing right back in a system that demands a progressive, overlapping approach on the wings.
Playing in a defensive position is new to the first-year pro, although some of his former coaches, in particular current West Chester United head coach Blaise Santangelo, saw it coming.
“[Playing as] a right back is pretty new for me. I guess I had a bit of time there in my sophomore year [at Notre Dame]. But, I’ve heard it for a while from coaches back when I was playing Penn Fusion, that they thought right back might be my spot going forward,” McFadden said.
McFadden has adapted quickly to a relatively new position, but he acknowledges that he has a lot to still learn.
“This might be my first time playing [right wingback] for 90 minutes. With Atlanta, they love the wingbacks to bomb on and join the attack. They have all the confidence in me, the players believe in the system. So, its just trusting it and getting in the right spots,” McFadden said. “I’m still figuring it out, I definitely don’t have the position down yet.”
Attacking wingbacks can flourish in a system such as Atlanta’s, and McFadden is a perfect example of its success. Splitting time between right back and winger, he has scored five goals in nine Atlanta United 2 games, after never hitting the back of the net at Notre Dame.
McFadden’s tally is best on the team, and good for eighth-most in the whole league.
Aiden McFadden slots it home for the sec...but wait...there's more pic.twitter.com/RKSQ4U7w2p— ATL UTD 2 (@atlutd2) May 20, 2021
“It’s a great team, a great coaching staff and fantastic players. I’ve just been working hard and the chances gave been falling for me. I’ve been having fun,” McFadden said with a smile.
With the form he is in and the busy nature of the MLS schedule, another local Philadelphian may make his first tier debut sooner rather than later.
On the surface though, McFadden isn’t focused on a potential promotion. He is content with getting better every day doing what he loves.
“The fact that I get to do this every day, it hasn’t really sunk in,” McFadden said. “I wake up and get to play soccer and they are giving me money to do that, what a concept that is!”
“I never know what day it is unless its game day, and I think that’s a good thing.”