Catching up with Aaron Schoenfeld as he prepares for Austin FC’s inaugural season

Stepping off the plane after his arrival in Austin on an unusually warm February day for the native Tennessean, the excitement that lingered following Aaron Schoenfeld’s recent signing with Austin FC was unmatched. Taking a look back however, through the upright seats and well-traveled aisles, Schoenfeld’s soccer journey started long before he touched down in Texas.

Early in his soccer career, Schoenfeld gained attention as a standout forward for East Tennessee State University. He scored 20 goals in 72 games for the ETSU Buccaneers, as well as racking up many All-Conference, All-Region, and All-Tournament honors. Achieving his dreams of playing professional soccer, he was drafted in the second round of the 2012 MLS Draft by the Montreal Impact but was picked up right away by Columbus Crew after they acquired his rights from Montreal. The day after his signing, he made his professional debut with the team and scored within the first two minutes in the Crew’s 2-0 win against the Impact.

Aaron Schoenfeld – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

The following year, while on loan with the Dayton Dutch Lions of the USL, Schoenfeld scored 12 goals in 18 games, setting a club record for goals scored in a single season. He returned to Columbus following his dominant USL performance with a new drive. That’s when it started clicking, he observed, and that same year, decided to take his talents overseas.

Schoenfeld has always been very passionate about his Judaism, so to have the ability to play professional soccer in Israel, the Jewish homeland, was a dream come true for him. Acknowledging the historically small number of Jewish MLS players, Schoenfeld mentioned that he “can’t really relate” to many players in that aspect. However, he has found the league to be very welcoming and has never had issues with practicing his Jewish faith. Playing in Israel, he felt even more accustomed to the culture as it is a home for Jews all around the world. Beginning his journey to Israel, Schoenfeld left Columbus with only a carry-on suitcase, unaware of the success his new campaign would bring.

Aaron Schoenfeld – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

He first signed with Maccabi Netanya, but after the club faced financial struggles, he was signed by Hapoel Tel Aviv following just two games. In true Schoenfeld fashion, he scored during the first game with his new club within the first two minutes. The goal came off his first touch in the much-anticipated Tel Aviv Derby, one of the most exciting games of the season, with popularity and energy that he compared to the Super Bowl. The next season, he signed a deal with Hapoel Tel Aviv’s biggest rival, Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he had yet another successful run before returning back to the states in 2020.

Schoenfeld quickly gained popularity in the Israel soccer scene, with some of his biggest career accomplishments happening there. Most notably, scoring the winning goal for Maccabi Tel Aviv in their championship game to sew up the Israel league title in 2019. His time in Israel led him to gain a new sense of independence, which he found to be freeing. “It was something completely different. I didn’t know anyone there, but it helped take me out of my comfort zone,” he said. He also emphasized the amount of knowledge he gained from playing in a different league with a different style of play. “The league is really technical, but not as much physical,” which led Schoenfeld to focus on parts of his game he might not always accentuate.

Aaron Schoenfeld – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Upon his return to the United States, Schoenfeld joined Minnesota United FC for one season before signing as a free agent with his current team in their inaugural MLS season, Austin FC. As the team gears up for their first games, Schoenfeld reflected on his career and the new perspectives he gained throughout his journey.

During his early MLS days, to even be drafted was an extraordinary opportunity. Then, to additionally be able to pursue his dreams of playing in Israel was a major career breakthrough that brought new insights and aspirations. While preparing for Austin FC’s upcoming season, Schoenfeld is most excited to be a part of the team’s milestones. “I’m looking forward to being part of the club’s history. I really want to help this amazing club build something special,” he says.

Aaron Schoenfeld – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Back at the team facilities, Schoenfeld wraps up his last media sessions of the day as he steps out again into the friendly February air. Thrilled to begin training with his new teammates on his new home turf, he is ready to prove that Austin FC is here to compete.

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