Liverpool could move for USA international Aaron Long, according to reports. But who exactly is the defender?
ESPN claims Liverpool are looking at NY Red Bulls defender Aaron Long. They could move for the player on loan this month.
Long isn’t a name known to global football, however. Here we try and give some background on the defender.
Long is a 28-year-old American defender who has had one of the stranger careers of any Liverpool target.
He signed for Portland Timbers back in 2014 at the age of 22 but they never actually used him. Instead, he had a couple of spells on loan in the ‘United Soccer League’ – effectively, the reserve league to MLS.
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These were very, very short-term spells, though. Both happened in 2014 and Portland actually released him later that year.
Seattle Sounders picked him up – but they didn’t use him, either. He played for their reserve side in the 2015 season. That would be Long’s first-full season, then, coming when he was 23.
This was a key time, though. Long was initially a midfielder but Seattle converted him into defence, where he has remained.
Long left Seattle ahead of the 2016 season, though. NY Red Bulls trialed him and clearly liked what they saw. They signed him up, placing him in their reserve side.
He 2016 season in the USL once again but that proved to be his breakthrough year. NY Red Bulls called him up to their senior side in 2017 and he’s been a mainstay ever since.
Long impressed enough that he made his international debut in 2018, winning 18 caps since.
The big takeaway is this, then – Long is 28 and only has three full seasons of senior-standard football under his belt.
Long’s three full seasons makes for interesting reading.
At his best, he makes around 1.5 tackles per game, although that did drop to 1.1 in 2019. That 1.5 figure would have him 3rd at Liverpool this season, of players to have featured at least five times.
Long averages around 1.8 interceptions per game, too. Only Thiago betters that at Liverpool. Fabnhio, for comparison, makes around 1.5.
Again, though, Long’s stats dropped off in 2019. His rate dropped down to 1.3, with the 1.8 figure coming in both 2017 and 2018.
Clearances is an interesting one, too, and this is where we think there might be a style clash. The 28-year-old averages over 5 per game.
No one at Liverpool matches that. Again sticking to players who have played in five games, only Joe Gomez comes close. He averaged 4 before his injury – but that is a small sample size.
For a better comparison, Fabinho and Joel Matip both average under 2.5. Or, under half of what Long is used to.
And to further emphasis that style clash, there are Long’s passing stats. His all-time high was a 76 per cent completion rate and that came in 2017.
Since then, it’s dropped to 69 per cent and 63 per cent in the following campaigns.
This is incredibly low by Liverpool standards. Matip, for instance, completes 87 per cent of his passes – and he’s the lowest of Liverpool’s defenders.
Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk both complete over 90 per cent of theirs.
That’s a drastic difference to Long and it suggests there’s a real ‘fit’ issue here.
What RTK has to say
Beggars can’t be choosers and if Aaron Long is a competent, international, senior defender, then we’ll take him. The suggestion of a loan deal is an interesting one, too.
It would mean the Reds don’t interrupt any summer targets, given the American would leave in the summer.
But we’ll be honest – it’s not a suggestion that fills us with confidence. Long doesn’t have much experience at all, despite his age, and we’re not sure he can play the way Liverpool like to.
Still, if Liverpool want him, that’s usually a good sign on its own. One thing to consider, though – Long does have a ridiculous mullet, and that might be enough to rule out a move.