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Ex-ETSU soccer star Schoenfeld gets home just in time

Joe Avento • Apr 6, 2020 at 4:15 PM

Sometimes timing is everything, and for former East Tennessee State soccer star Aaron Schoenfeld, it couldn’t have been better.

After spending four seasons with Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew, Schoenfeld headed to Israel, where he spent another four years playing professionally.

He moved back to the United States, signing with the Minnesota United of MLS in February, shortly before the spread of the coronavirus turned into the pandemic it is today.

“I got so lucky,” Schoenfeld said. “I was telling my father the other day just how lucky I got coming back where I’m comfortable.

“Over in Israel, they’re in lockdown. There’s cops patrolling the streets right now. It’s a pretty difficult situation over there. A lot of teams over there are making players take 50% pay cuts.

“It’s a really, really hard situation,” he added. “I’m happy to be back somewhere I’m comfortable in such a difficult moment.”

The one place Schoenfeld is most comfortable is on the soccer field. And now that MLS, like the rest of the sports world, is closed, he won’t be stepping onto a field anytime soon.

“It’s weird, a unique situation,” said Schoenfeld, a Knoxville native who went to Bearden. “It’s uncharted territory for all of us. Trying to stay fit, trying to stay active, trying to stay sane in the mind is pretty difficult at times. I think we’re all going through this together and we’re going to come out stronger on the other side.”

Schoenfeld enjoyed his four years in Israel, during which he scored 14 goals. His girlfriend is Abby Dahlkemper, a professional player herself and a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team that won the World Cup last summer.

Schoenfeld attended two of those World Cup games, the United States’ 3-0 win over Chile and the 2-0 championship- clinching victory over the Netherlands.

“It was a really special moment in life,” Schoenfeld said. “To see the person you love win a World Cup, it was an indescribable feeling. It was just amazing watching someone achieve their dream.”

That was one reason he wanted to come home.

“We wanted to be closer together,” he said. “I just felt like it was a good time for me, too. I’m turning 30 in April. Last year in Israel, they offered me an extension, but ultimately I knew I wanted to be back in MLS and get closer to her and my family.”

MLS was two games into its season when the league decided to stop. Minnesota won both of its games, scoring a league-high eight goals in the process. Both games were on the road and the home opener against the New York Red Bulls was up next when play was shut down.

“We were on a nice roll for a while,” said Schoenfeld, who appeared in each match as a substitute. “I think we’re a resilient group. We’re strong and when we come back we’ll bring the same energy. We’re going to keep pushing.

“It’s a group of fighters in Minnesota.”

Schoenfeld said the team’s trainer customizes workouts for each player to do at home during the time they can’t get together.

“We try to go outside to run when you get a chance,” he said. “It’s difficult. Obviously you can’t really replicate anything on the field right now. But everyone’s going through it. It’s not like you’re getting behind anyone else.”

After a college career in which he set the ETSU scoring record, Schoenfeld was drafted by the Montreal Impact in 2012 before being traded to Columbus. He says the changes in MLS since he first joined the league are remarkable.

“It’s a big difference,” he said. “It’s so professional now. You truly feel like you’re in a big league around the world, from facilities to the amount of money we’re spending on player transfers to player salaries. Now with the new (collective bargaining agreement), with the amount of charter flights that are available to teams, it’s just night and day. It’s mind-blowing.”

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