The Columbus Crew is set to make another addition to the 2021 roster in 26-year old Marlon Hairston. The free agent signing was initially reported by Jeff Rueter of The Athletic Wednesday afternoon and confirmed by Massive Report. Hairston last played for Minnesota United in 2020 as he shifted from a wide right midfield role to play in the center of the park. He also has played fullback and could be a possible backup option to veteran right back Harrison Afful.
In addition to the reports from Rueter, Hairston tweeted, “Day 1 of year 8 in the books,” with an arm flexing emoji, as well as a soccer ball and black and gold hearts in the afternoon seemingly confirming his signing with Columbus.
Hairston’s positional versatility could be utilized throughout this condensed 2021 campaign for the defending MLS Cup champions. Hairston will now join his former Minnesota teammate Kevin Molino, who also signed with the team earlier this offseason, for the Black & Gold and becomes one of the few players on the roster with CONCACAF Champions League experience. He previously appeared in the CCL with both the Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo.
Hairston played collegiate soccer for two years at Louisville where he was named to the All-Big East rookie team as a freshman and the All-Big East first team as a sophomore. The Mississippi native signed with Major League Soccer as a Generation Adidas player and was selected 12th overall by the Rapids in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.
After playing 22 games as a rookie, Hairston spent much of 2015 on loan with the Charlotte Independence in the USL. He was called back up to MLS to play the final three games of that season, all at right back after playing in midfield for all of 2015 and 2014. The 2016 season was a breakout year for Hairston as he provided three goals and six assists in 14 starts for Colorado, helping the team to an MLS Cup playoff berth before the Rapids lost to the Seattle Sounders in the Wester Conference Final.
In 2017, Hairston became a regular for the Rapids, starting 29 games with three goals and four assists. Hairston’s consistency in the Colorado lineup earned him a call up to a U.S. Men’s National Team camp before the 2018 MLS season. The final year in the burgundy for Hairston included a knee injury that sidelined him for two months before being traded to Houston in 2019 for General Allocation Money.
With the Dynamo, Hairston battled another injury and saw fewer minutes on the pitch with just five starts during the 2019 season. He was traded to Minnesota before the 2020 season in exchange for Darwin Quintero and a third-round pick. With the Loons, Hairston moved from his usual right side winger/fullback role to central midfield. He played nine games that included four starts last season.
Hairston will be the 12th midfielder on the roster but one that can play on the back four. The Crew roster stands at 27 players with less than two months until the team’s opening game in Managua, Nicaragua against Real Esteli in the CONCACAF Champions League. Columbus players are currently reporting back to Ohio for a seven-day quarantine period before flying to Chula Vista, California on March 3 for preseason training camp.
The Crew’s current 2021 roster:
Goalkeepers (4): Evan Bush, Eric Dick, Matt Lampson, Eloy Room
Defenders (8): Harrison Afful, Waylon Francis, Aboubacar Keita, Grant Lillard, Jonathan Mensah, Milton Valenzuela, Josh Williams, Vito Wormgoor
Midfielders (12): Artur, Sebastian Berhalter, Luis Diaz, Derrick Etienne, Jr., Marlon Hairston, Perry Kitchen, Aidan Morris, Kevin Molino, Darlington Nagbe, Isaiah Parente, Pedro Santos, Lucas Zelarayan
Forwards (3): Miguel Berry, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Gyasi Zardes