Captain Long sails into the sunset
January 3, 2023
One of the most amazing aspects of Metro's run through the mid-2010s was the humble origins of many of its heroes. From Luis Robles not able to get a job after returning to America from Germany, to Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips forcing to go on trial after bumming around mid-range England, to Kemar Lawrence being passed on by (of all teams!) DC Scum, only to rise to greatness in Metro colors... But perhaps no player exemplifies that more than Aaron Long, who went from a USL castoff to simply the greatest defender in team history.
It's a tough list to top. The aforementioned Lawrence arguably had a higher peak than any left back in MLS ever. Mike Petke will forever remain an idol for his years of service. Eddie Pope put together a phenomenal year in 2003, and it's unimaginable that the first Shield arrives without Jamison Olave in 2013. And yet, for Metro, no defender was as good for such a long period than Long was. For six years, he was the first name on the lineup card. For most of that time, you could put his name as the best defender in MLS and not have many arguments.
Of course, what makes it even more amazing is where Long came from. A midfielder originally, cast off by Portland, cast off by Seattle... It took Jesse Marsch to see something in Long that others didn't. A conversion to defense, a year in the USL to lead RBNY II to the title, a call-up for the 2016 Champions League, and then, a first team deal. In his second MLS season, Long was anchoring perhaps the best defense in league history (Lawrence, Long, Tim Parker, Michael Murillo) to the best record in league history, the team's third Shield and the MLS Defender of the Year Award. It was as great a season from an MLS defender as anyone has ever seen.
Now, of course, he is gone. Yet another in a long list of Metro greats, shown the door when there was something left to give. And while we can't fault Aaron for seeking employment elsewhere (after all, being on the wrong side of 30 is not exactly part of the Red Bull process), we can't help but wish that it lasted longer. That Long would spend a few more years to be the first name on the lineup card. Alas, it was not to be.
Thank you, Captain Long.