The Crew boast a number of home grown players. After signing in the offseason and spending significant time with the U.S. U-20 team, Wil Trapp started his first game on July 7th and has locked down the holding midfield spot in the lineup. Rookie Chad Barson has played solidly at both outside back positions. Second year players Matt Lampson and Ben Speas have stepped in when called upon.
There is one home grown player who hasn't even made the game day roster for the senior team and has struggled to find minutes for the reserves. Aaron Horton is in his third year, but has fallen behind every other forward on the roster. Federico Higuain, Dominic Oduro, Jairo Arrieta, Justin Meram, and Aaron Schoenfeld has seen minutes at forward before him.
Horton's career with the team has taken many strange turns. He signed in May of 2011 after a year with the University of Louisville and made his first, and only, appearance for the team a month later when the Crew were struggling desperately to find enough fit players. Horton dropped out of the game day roster as players got healthy, seeing only reserve minutes for the rest of the year.
Horton faired worse in 2012 as he failed to make the game day roster except for his appearance in the friendly against Stoke City, scoring a goal in the process. He was briefly loaned to the Dayton Dutch Lions, but was recalled before making an appearance as the injury bug struck again. Horton even struggled with playing time in the reserves, often playing as a winger or a late sub at forward. It was clear by the end of the season that he'd fallen well into the doghouse before then Coach Robert Warzycha publicly questioned his character and professionalism in a November 2012 interview in the Dispatch.
Horton's contract guaranteed that he'd be retained in 2013, but it was clear he wasn't in the team's plans. His agent lined up trials with FK Sarajevo and Hammarby in Europe. Both teams passed and Horton returned to Columbus. He'd ride the bench, making one reserve appearance, until he got a loan to L.A. Blues of the PDL. He would make five appearances, scoring zero goals, before falling out of favor again in L.A. to the point he didn't make the bench. By the end of his loan in late August he hasn't played in two months.
Under interim head coach Brian Bliss, Horton finally saw action in a reserve match. He went 45 minutes in relief of Aaron Schoenfeld against Montreal on Saturday. It's more playing time than he's had in months and may mark the his chance to get back into the team.
Horton's future is cloudy with his lack of development the past two years. The personality conflict with Warzycha was so great that Horton remains the only player the team ever loaned out during Warzycha's tenure. Warzycha did have a track record of playing young players, but kept Horton frozen out of the team the past two years. He's a speedy player that is still learning what to do with the ball. He has little to show for the time he has made the field, only scoring a goal in reserve action against Stoke in 2012.
At 21 years old, he does have a shot at reviving his career, but it just may not be in a Crew uniform. That may depend on whether his contract is guaranteed past this year. With big changes looming in the offseason, Horton may get lost in the shuffle.