When people talk about young Irish players moving across to the USA to pursue a soccer scholarship, there is no player more notorious in recent years then, Aaron Molloy. The young man from Dublin, played League of Ireland U19 football for Bohemians eventually moving to Drogheda United, where he made 13 appearances for the first team, before the USA came calling.
In August 2016, Molloy signed with NAIA school, Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Florida. As a freshman he came in, worked his tail off, and produced a season to remember. Winning the prestigious ‘Freshman of the Year’ trophy for the league, demonstrated just how quickly Molloy managed to transition to the American game.
2017 rolled around and Molloy had earned himself a crack at the NCAA Division 1. He signed a scholarship with Penn State University, and became a Nittany Lion. Making over 50 appearances for Penn State, Aaron, quickly developed into a regular starter and by his junior year (3rd year) took over the captain’s armband.
In between seasons Aaron played for Reading United in the Premier Development League (PDL) to keep himself sharp and fit, and put himself in the ‘shop window’ for pro scouts. Aaron, was rather prolific at this level notching 12 times in just 26 appearances. It was his 2nd season at Reading United, that got him noticed by the Nittany Lions of Penn State, Aaron started 11 games and scored 7 goals, earning himself a transfer to PSU.
After 3 successful years at Penn State, it was time for Aaron to look to the future. He graduated Penn with a bachelor’s degree in tourism management, and set about his professional dreams. Aaron attended the MLS combine in early 2020, after receiving an invitation from the league. Impressing scouts and coaches alike, Molloy would go on to be selected as the 16th pick overall in the 1st round, by the Portland Timbers, to land his first professional contract. What a moment for the Dubliner, all his hard work and effort over the years, finally paying off.
As part of the Timbers franchise, The Portland Timbers have a reserve side, Portland Timbers 2, and this is where Aaron will develop and ply his trade until he is ready to step into the breaches of MLS soccer. The Portland Timbers have high hopes for Molloy, who has been a revelation for their Timbers 2 side.
There appears to be a bit of a stigma about the NAIA, NCAA D2 or playing the junior college level, but Aaron is testament to the fact, that if you come in, work hard and put in the performances on the field, opportunities and doors will open for you within the soccer world in the USA. If you want it enough, you could be following in the footsteps of Aaron, and carving your own path to stardom. Don’t sleep on any level in the USA, if you perform, you will be seen, and if you want it badly enough, you can have it all.
While you are here, why don’t you check out Sam Finn’s article all about Aaron Molloy’s journey in detail with added input from Aaron himself! Click here, to read the article.