The Columbus Crew has made another signing in the 2021 offseason. The team announced today that 26-year-old defender Marlon Hairston is joining the 2020 MLS Cup champions from free agency, as reported by Massive Report last week.
The Mississippi native played for Minnesota United last season and will re-up with his ex-MNUFC teammate Kevin Molino for the Black & Gold. Columbus will be Hairston’s fourth MLS team.
“Marlon is a dynamic and versatile player who brings veteran Major League Soccer and Concacaf Champions League experience,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in the press release. “We believe that Marlon’s abilities will help strengthen our roster and provide us with another strong defensive option, which will be needed in a highly congested season due to multiple club competitions and players lost due to international matches.”
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. After he was drafted by the Colorado Rapids in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, Hairston spent time in the USL before becoming the team’s starting right back. In 2016, Hairston had his breakout season with three goals and six assists in 14 starts for the Rapids helping the team to an MLS Cup playoff berth before Colorado lost to the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Final.
In 2017, Hairston became a regular for the Rapids, starting 29 games with three goals and four assists. He battled injuries during the 2018 season before being traded to the Houston Dynamo 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 draft 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 has played in 116 MLS regular season games in his career and in five CONCACAF Champions League matches, making him one of the few players on the Crew roster with CCL experience. He will provide depth at right back behind veteran Harrison Afful.
Hairston is the ninth and newest defender on the Columbus roster. He joins the likes of Evan Bush, Eric Dick, Perry Kitchen, Kevin Molino, Isaiah Parente and Bradley Wright-Phillips as the new additions for 2021. The squad is currently in Chula Vista, California beginning a preseason camp that will last till March 13 before coming back to Ohio. The Crew opens the 2021 season on April 8 against Real Esteli in Managua, Nicaragua in the Champions League Round of 16.
The Crew’s current 2021 roster:
Goalkeepers (4): Evan Bush, Eric Dick, Matt Lampson, Eloy Room
Defenders (9): Harrison Afful, Waylon Francis, Marlon Hairston, Aboubacar Keita, Grant Lillard, Jonathan Mensah, Milton Valenzuela, Josh Williams, Vito Wormgoor
Midfielders (11): Artur, Sebastian Berhalter, Luis Diaz, Derrick Etienne, Jr., Perry Kitchen, Aidan Morris, Kevin Molino, Darlington Nagbe, Isaiah Parente, Pedro Santos, Lucas Zelarayan
Forwards (3): Miguel Berry, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Gyasi Zardes