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Brenden Aaronson won Leeds.  Can he win the World Cup?


In a win at Liverpool in October that most likely saved their manager’s job, for example, Leeds not only ran more than any team in any Premier League game this season, but Aaronson ran more than anyone. He logged 8.2 miles, more than any player has run in any league game this year.

“Brenden Aaronson loves weed,” Daniel Chapman wrote earlier this season in “The Square Ball.” “Green grass. Yellow grass. Part synthetic turf. All grass, he likes all grass, likes to run in it, roll in it, be on it, dance on it, metaphorically eat it with his feet running and maybe- literally be with his hungry mouth.

Marsch regards this characterization, while not incorrect, as a reductive touch. “He has more qualities than people think,” said the coach. “He’s a good finisher, he’s really smart at putting together passes in tight spaces. It’s so much about his ability to make final plays and slow down a bit in the final third.

Even Marsch, however, couldn’t resist the lure of making a horticultural analogy. “He’s like a weed,” Marsch, a former MLS coach with the Red Bulls, told MLSsoccer.com’s “Extratime” podcast earlier this season. “You almost see it growing before your eyes.”

That’s what endeared him, so quickly, to even the most hardened and battered Leeds fans: not just his effort, but his intent. That’s what has filled American fans with optimism about his contributions ahead of Monday’s World Cup opener against Wales.

That day against Fulham, Aaronson had no reason to apologize. The defeat, most certainly, had not been his fault. He had been Leeds’ best and most efficient player. Yet he made his way around the pitch, still on the move, even after the final whistle, still believing he could have done more.


nytimes sport

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