New York Red Bulls centerback Aaron Long became the club’s first player to be voted the 2018 Major League Soccer Defender of the Year, in what was only his second full season at the MLS level.

Red Bulls’ Aaron Long Named 2018 MLS Defender of the Year

It was a deserved honor for Long, in a year in which he also received his first call up to the US National Team and named an MLS All-Star.

Long played in all 34 games for the Red Bulls, and started 31 of them. Long was key to the team’s defensive efforts, as they only conceded 33 goals the entire season.

The native of Oak Hills, California earned his first cap for the USMNT in a friendly against Peru. He played all 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw.

This is the second time Long was awarded a Defender of the Year honor with the Red Bulls, with the first coming with Red Bulls II in USL in 2016.

Long received an average of 26.52% of the votes from players, the clubs, and the technical staff, beating out Chad Marshall of Seattle by over 5%.

Full press release:

New York Red Bulls and United States Men’s National team center back Aaron Long was named the 2018 MLS Defender of the Year, the league announced today. Long earns MLS Defender of the Year honors in just his second MLS season, two years removed from being named USL Defender of the Year in 2016.

“On behalf of the entire club I’d like to congratulate Aaron for this well-deserved recognition,” said Red Bulls Sporting Director Denis Hamlett. “Watching Aaron’s growth on and off the field, from USL Defender of the Year in 2016 to MLS All-Star, U.S. National Team player and MLS Defender of the Year, has been tremendous. Our organization takes pride in developing young players and giving them opportunities to succeed. Aaron is an excellent example of what can happen when a young player dedicates themselves to learning and becoming better every day.”

At 26, Long has had quite the season to remember, being named an MLS All-Star, earning his first call-up and start for the USMNT and now being honored as the league’s best defender, as voted by the media, all MLS players and technical staffs. A breakdown of voting is below. He becomes the first player in club history to earn Defender of the Year and fourth player to record a major award.

“We are very proud of Aaron, and happy for him,” said Red Bulls Head Coach Chris Armas. “Aaron has had a unique story to get to this point and has established himself as a real leader of our backline and team.  It’s great to see him get this recognition, it’s so well deserved.”

In his second full season, Long started 31 of the 34 league matches, anchoring a Red Bulls defense that recorded 14 shutouts and allowed a league-low 33 goals in 34 games in MLS. Offensively, he tallied career-bests in both goals (3) and assists (2). The Oak Hills, California, native was not only named to his first MLS All-Star match, but started and played a game-high 62 minutes to help the MLS All-Stars tie Italian-side Juventus, 1-1.

For country, Long earned his first senior cap in October’s 1-1 draw against Peru, playing a full 90 minutes as part of a backline that allowed just three shots on goal. He received his first national team call – at any level – for the September camp and friendlies against Brazil and Mexico, and yesterday was named to the November roster for matches against England and Italy.

Long joined the Red Bulls organization ahead of the 2016 season, where he was converted from midfielder to center back after signing with the NYRB II, the club’s USL affiliate. Long excelled in his new role, earning 2016 USL Defender of the Year honors and promotion to the First Team.

Long and the Red Bulls will continue their playoff run as they host Columbus Crew SC in Leg 2 of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals on Sunday at Red Bull Arena. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. with coverage on FS1, FOX Deportes and New York Red Bulls Radio in English and Spanish on TuneIn. Columbus Crew SC holds a 1-0 aggregate lead over New York after Leg 1.

Photo by Bill Twomey Photography

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