Aron John, known as “AJ” by coaches and teammates, only just joined the Charlotte FC Academy a year ago after developing at Charlotte Soccer Academy. Within that single year, he has experienced a remarkable and rapid rise, culminating in a unanimous selection as the inaugural recipient of the Academy Player of the Year award.
Despite the quick and major impact he made for the Club’s U-17 squad, which included six goals and six assists in 23 appearances, even AJ himself was pleasantly surprised by the honor.
"Honestly, I was kind of shocked because it was my first year in the Academy,” AJ said. “I was not really expecting it. It was a tremendous honor for me to receive that award, and I am very grateful for it."
Several key figures in the Academy, including Executive Director Bryan Scales, U-17 Head Coach Jason Osborne, and Technical Director Bobby Belair, lavished praise on the 17-year-old player. They commended AJ for embodying all the qualities desired in a soccer player: outstanding character, unwavering work ethic, and a relentless pursuit of improvement.
When asked about the factors contributing to his breakout season, AJ provided an answer that any coach would commend.
"I think it just comes from trying to get better every day in training. Just giving it your best and your all every day to be the best soccer player that you can be at the moment. Then, when the opportunities arise, just take them and go with confidence."
While AJ describes himself as reserved and quiet off the field, on the pitch, he captures a great deal of attention with his style of play. He isn't content with merely being a bystander; instead, he actively participates in every facet of the game.
"I like to attack, but I also like to defend, so I play as a box-to-box midfielder most of the time. I'm very hardworking. I don't like to just stand there and watch my team play. I like to move with the ball and without the ball. I just try to help the team in any situation."
The past season marked AJ's first and final year with the Academy, as he demonstrated his talent and earned a promotion to the second team, Crown Legacy FC. He has already made his professional debut and recently made an appearance in Legacy's 6-3 victory over Orlando City B just over a week ago.
Transitioning from the academy to the professional level is a significant change, but AJ has adapted admirably. In the early stages of his professional journey, he has learned two crucial lessons: seizing every opportunity and having confidence in his abilities.
“You don't get many opportunities, and when you get your opportunity, you have to take it because some players might drop in form, and then it's your turn. Once you get your chance, you've got to take it, or it's gone. Also, trust your abilities, and don't get stressed out about playing every game perfectly. You're going to make mistakes. So, I think just trying to focus on the positives and learn from each game and each practice and then see what happens."
For a promising talent like AJ, his soccer journey is just beginning. He hasn't set his sights on the first team just yet as he remains focused on his short-term goal of establishing himself at Crown Legacy and increasing his minutes on the field.
Fortunately, he won't be alone in this endeavor, as he will benefit from the guidance of Legacy Head Coach Jose Tavares, who has already helped elevate the skills of players like Patrick Agyemang and Brandon Cambridge, leading to their appearances with the first team. He also joins a host of other young players at Legacy that developed in the CLTFC Academy, which includes current Homegrowns Brian Romero, Jack Neeley, and Nimfasha Berchimas.
Most importantly, though, AJ’s selection as the inaugural Academy Player of the Year showcases an Academy at Charlotte FC that is beginning to bear the fruits of the labor from the past three-plus years. Young player development takes time and patience, and Charlotte FC fans can now get a sneak peek at potential future first-teamers like Aron John with Crown Legacy FC as they continue on their upward trajectory towards Major League Soccer.