If University of Louisville midfielder Marlon Hairston was trying to hide his enthusiasm, he certainly didn’t do a very good job of it. The 12th overall pick of Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft could barely contain himself just minutes after his selection by the Colorado Rapids.
“I’m excited right now. I’m really happy about it,” Hairston told MLSsoccer.com by phone shortly after his selection on Thursday. “I’m just trying to soak everything in right now. I’m really excited to be a part of this organization and I can’t wait to hit the ground running.”
The speedy box-to-box midfielder and Jackson, Miss., native had a feeling that the Rapids might take him, particularly after a lengthy meeting with Colorado special assistant and reported head coaching candidate Pablo Mastroeni at this week’s MLS Combine. Hairston said he immediately felt “good vibes” from the Rapids and got the sense that it could be his destination.
“I met with Colorado while I was at the Combine, and met with a few other teams, and I can definitely say that the vibes I got from Colorado during the interview were all good,” said Hairston, who left Louisville after his sophomore year after scoring three goals and two assists in 20 starts.
“They asked me great questions and brought great energy to the interview so they made it real easy on my part. I could tell they were very interested in getting me, so I’m looking forward to starting my career off in Colorado.”
Only 19, the Generation adidas product appears to be more of a project-type midfielder who could need some seasoning before challenging for a spot in the lineup. But the Rapids built a large part of their success in 2013 on the back of young players, including Rookie of the Year Dillon Powers and runner-up Deshorn Brown, a fact that wasn’t lost on Hairston.
“I haven’t gotten any of that information or anything, but they definitely said what they saw in me as a player was a good thing,” said Hairston, who is a cousin of NBA star LaMarcus Aldridge.
“Wherever I ended up, [my goal] was to get into the team right away and to make a difference and press [for a role]. At least I can start making the first 18 and hopefully get a [starting] spot.”
One asset that could help Hairston work his way into the starting lineup is his apparent willingness to play outside his preferred spot in the central midfield. After mostly playing in a free attacking role at Louisville, Hairston is open to playing further back in the midfield or perhaps even outside back, where the Rapids like to employ attack-minded players to supplement the offense.
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“That’s the question I’ve been asked for a while [on whether he can play outside back], a couple times, in the middle of the park is usually the main position throughout my career so far, whether it was defensive midfield, attacking midfield, or just a box-to-box midfielder,” Hairston said.
“I really haven’t gotten a run at right back before, so I mean if I can get a spot on the field, I’m sure that they can help me become a better player, so I’m looking forward to that.”
In the meantime, the energetic teenager is simply excited to get his first chance in a Rapids uniform, which will come next week when Colorado report for preseason.
“I’m flying out in a couple hours actually, get back home and maybe go out to eat and celebrate or something,” Hairston said. “But tomorrow I’m right back training and getting back to it.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.