Extratime crew analyzes transfer saga around New York Red Bulls' Aaron Long

HANOVER. N.J. — Luis Robles calls him “one of the foundation pieces” of the New York Red Bulls. For Sean Davis, he’s “part of the spine of our team.”

Whatever colorful word used, it’s clear how valuable Aaron Long is to the Red Bulls — present and future. 

“We've seen him how important he is to our backline and our team in general, his leadership, his quality, his understanding, he reads the game well in the back, he's got speed, he’s good on set pieces both ways,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “There’s nothing he doesn't do back there for us.”

That quality has been recognized overseas, as well, with clubs from the English Premier League and Ligue 1 in France reportedly looking to bring the 26-year-old center back to their club ahead of the start of their seasons. 

The Red Bulls have spurned each advance. And now, with the Secondary Transfer Window closed in MLS, it appears Long will remain with the Red Bulls for the remainder of the 2019 season, at least, with New York unable to bring in an immediate replacement. 

“He's a big piece, he’s a big voice in our team,” Armas said. “To have him with a clear mind and with us healthy — he had the hamstring [injury] earlier on in the year — to have him completely connected in all ways emotionally, physically, that gives us a better chance.”

Long, the reigning MLS Defender of the Year who has established himself with the US national team this year, has been steadfast in response to the transfer rumors. It would be a dream to play in the Premier League, he says, but he also he separated himself from what Robles called “the saga.” 

It’s between the Red Bulls, European suitors and his agent, Long said. 

If Long has mixed emotions about the proceedings, he hasn’t shown it on the pitch. 

“I can’t fault his professionalism,” Robles said. “Last week he was great and this week he’s been good as well.”

Robles said he’d be happy for Long, as a friend and teammate, if he had a chance to go to an EPL side. But now that it appears he’s staying? 

“I'm also happy because he's such an important player for us and what we're doing,” Robles said. 

Partnering with Tim Parker and flanked by Kemar Lawrence on the left and often Michael Amir Murillo on the right, the Red Bulls still have one of the most formidable backlines in MLS. It’s been rare the four have been on the field together this season, however, due to injuries and international call-ups. 

“It's just great to have him back and we're lucky to have him,” Davis said. “I think especially when our back line is together, fit, strong, healthy and focused, we are almost unstoppable.”