American midfielder Dante Polvara is relishing the challenge of fighting for a first team spot after a summer rebuild.
The 21-year-old had the opportunity to impress boss Jim Goodwin when starting the final three games of the season.
However, Polvara accepts the battle will ramp up in the summer when a host of new signings are drafted in.
Dons boss Goodwin has confirmed he wants to land Wolves midfielder Connor Ronan in the summer.
January signing Polvara welcomes competition and is up for the battle to secure a regular starting slot next term.
He will jet back to his home city of New York for the summer, but there will be no let-up for the American.
He said: “There will obviously be a lot of turnover in the squad next season as guys are leaving.
“Change obviously needs to happen as it is a big club and results are expected.
“A lot will change and there will be competition.
“I’ll keep pushing on and my aspirations are to keep in the team.
“Competition is good, because the second you become comfortable with yourself you start losing and missing out on your own potential.
“I know I will have to work to get minutes here.
“But I’m excited about that.”
‘Nowhere near what I’m capable of’
Polvara was secured on a two-and-a-half-year contract in January from Georgetown University in the United States.
A host of MLS clubs, as well outfits in Italy and Germany, were also interested in signing Polvara.
The midfielder won the 2021 Missouri Athletic Club’s (MAC) Hermann trophy just days before switching to Pittodrie.
Awarded to the best college player in the United States, it is the most prestigious individual honour an NCAA Division 1 player can achieve.
However, a hernia operation soon after arriving in Scotland delayed Polvara’s debut.
Polvara was given the opportunity to impress by boss Goodwin in starting the final games of the season against Hibs, St Johnstone and St Mirren.
He said: “Over the last three games I have had the opportunity to show some bright spots and what I’m capable of.
“But I’m nowhere near what I know I’m capable of.
“A lot of that probably comes from confidence and getting into a rhythm of things.
“You can’t replicate those things on a training pitch.
“You don’t know what it’s like until you are really out there to get into rhythm of the team and build that chemistry.”
Working hard to gain boss’ trust
Polvara was signed by former Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass.
However, just a month after the midfielder’s arrival at Pittodrie, Glass was axed.
Polvara had yet to make his Dons debut when the manager who signed him left the club.
Glass’ replacement Goodwin selected the midfielder for his long-awaited debut as a substitute in a 1-0 loss to Rangers at Ibrox on March 5.
Goodwin then handed Polvara his first start in the 1-1 draw with Hibs earlier this month.
He retained that starting slot.
Polvara said: “Over the last few months I have been working hard to gain his trust.
“I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity for three games and two substitutions early on.
“It is a good building block to hopefully keep adding on to next season.”
‘No one has chucked it’
A goalless stalemate with St Mirren was a suitably low-key finale to a season where the Dons finished 10th in the Premiership.
It is the Reds’ lowest league finish since 2004.
Polvara insists no one ‘chucked it’ during a dismal campaign.
He said: “We are all massively disappointed.
“Whether that is the guys who are leaving or the guys who are staying, no one has chucked it.
“We have been putting the work in, but something has not clicked.”
Work continues in the Big Apple
Aberdeen acquired Polvara’s rights from MLS outfit New York City FC, who owned the midfielder’s homegrown rights.
Polvara came through the acclaimed youth set-up at New York City.
The midfielder played in the same team as Joe Scally, 19 (Borussia Monchengladbach) and US international Gio Reyna, 19 (Borussia Dortmund).
He intends to head back to the Big Apple for a summer break.
However the midfielder will have little down time as he focuses on earning a starting slot next season.
He said: “I’ll head back to the States and try to get off my feet.
“However, I find it hard to sit around so it will probably only be a few days before I’m kicking a ball again.
“I’ll be looking forward to coming back in four or five weeks’ time.”