WHIPPANY, N.J. — During the dog days of summer, Daniel Edelman is akin to plenty of 20-year-olds living in the suburbs of New Jersey, just 30 miles outside of New York City.
He comes home from work where his mother makes dinner, his two younger brothers are waiting for him, and — when he’s not feeling up to it — even his laundry is done.
That, of course, is where the similarities with your run-of-the-mill young adult ends. Edelman’s summer job — which also includes plenty of hours on nights and weekends and begins in the spring and ends in autumn — is that of the up-and-coming holding midfielder for the New York Red Bulls.
“It’s still fun,” Edelman told amNewYork. “I get to go home after training and see my two younger brothers. Mom (Loyola University’s all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball) is at home and dad (a collegiate standout at Loyola, too) is in and out of the house. I’m going to stay at home now while I’m here. No need to move out or anything. I think some of the guys on the team are a little bit jealous that I get to go home.”
Not many professional athletes still get to rest their heads every night in their childhood bedroom, which makes Edelman’s journey toward stardom all the more captivating.
In a six-day stretch that began on Sunday, the youngster played in front of DC United manager and Manchester United legend, Wayne Rooney and helped keep their striker, Christian Benteke, a former Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, and Liverpool — the same Liverpool that he gushed over as a child while idolizing the legendary Steven Gerrard — striker at bay in a 1-0 victory.
The “whirlwind” week, as Edelman described it, ends on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena (7:30 p.m. ET) where he will be lining up opposite one of the greatest ever, Lionel Messi, in his MLS debut, another boyhood idol of his in holding midfielder Sergio Busquets — both of whom lifted Spanish giants Barcelona to dizzying heights in the 2010s — and the suddenly-high-flying Inter Miami.
“There’s an exciting game coming up with players that I’ve looked up to, players that I’ve watched,” Edelman began. “Busquets is an idol of mine. There’s definitely some to playing them. You take a guy like Busquets who’s getting older now (35) and he’s not as mobile as he is. But he’s still arguably the best player on the field with how he’s just so smart with his movement, his spacing, his positioning, and how he instructs other guys. You don’t have to be the most athletic player on the field.”
Athleticism and sheer intangibles were never Busquets’ calling card, providing a cerebral style of play rather than a strength-driven, overpowering brand. Yet the slight, slender holding midfielder paired with the 5-foot-7 Messi combined to win eight La Liga titles together, seven Copa Del Rays, six Spanish Super Cups, and three UEFA Champions League crowns.
It’s not all about appearances. It rarely should be, and Edelman is no stranger to that.
Like Busquets, he isn’t built like the prototypical defensive midfielder, also known as the “6” whose job is to keep order in front of the backline rather than score goals. Edelman is listed at just 5-foot-10 and 141 lbs. — a slender, sometimes unassuming talent that had largely been overlooked during his time as a youth product of the Players Development Academy in New Jersey.
While he watched peers get called to United States national team youth camps at 13 and 14 years old — which introduced the first questions of his purpose of playing the game he loved — Edelman had to wait until he was roughly 16 when he got four appearances for the U-16 side in 2019.
Consider that the crack in the door needed for him to completely kick it down.
“I think for the rest of my playing days, I’ll have a chip on my shoulder,” Edelman said. “I’ve always been looked down on as the small skinny guy who could never really make the jump.”
With the proper stage to dispel concerns about his size, Edelman showed the ferocity in his game that ultimately caught the eye of the Red Bulls. He blends the sort of aggression necessary to, as he describes it, “blow up plays,” with the vision and skill to provide the imperative first pass of a breakout.
He cannoned up the ranks of the United States soccer system. While he signed with the Red Bulls in 2020 and was placed on their reserve squad, he was named captain of the US U-20 side that won its third-ever CONCACAF U-20 championship last year — the same year he made his MLS debut with New York.
“These last few years have been inspiring for me to see myself grow and to see the maturity of the player that I’ve become,” Edelman said. “I’m not satisfied at all yet, but I’m excited to see where I can take it. It definitely shows to never give up and just keep putting in extra work.”
Making 13 MLS appearances this year and featuring in each of the Red Bulls’ four Leagues Cup matches in which they advanced to the Round of 16, Edelman has quickly become a key cog in the New York machine. Yet this week provides a golden opportunity to prove not only to himself but to others, that his ceiling can be limitless and his path could be carved out over the Atlantic Ocean to England and the Premier League, where he one day hopes to play for his boyhood club in Liverpool.
Perhaps that’s why he has the presence of mind to cherish the time he’s getting with his family now.
“I want to continue to prove myself and show the quality that I have that I can make the next jump,” Edelman said. “With Wayne Rooney watching me and Messi and Busquets on Inter Miami, I think that just adds a little fire inside me even more because these are world-known players, the best players to play the game…
“I’ve always wanted to play for Liverpool, play in the Premier League, Champions League football. That’s definitely a big goal of mine. I think with where I am right now and how Red Bulls is taking care of me, I think I’m on the right trajectory, but that’s on me.”