OBETZ, Ohio — The education of the Columbus Crew’s first Home Grown player, Aaron Horton, is continuing both on and off the field.
The 19-year-old striker left the University of Louisville after just one season to sign with the Crew on May 17, but he’s working toward a promise he made to his parents by enrolling at a local college this summer.
“When I left school, that was my main goal, to still get my degree,” Horton said. “I talked to my parents about it. They didn’t want me to leave [Louisville] if I didn’t get my degree.”
Horton is taking an afternoon psychology class at Columbus State with the intention of transferring those credits to another Columbus school in the fall. The move will allow him to take more than one course, but it may also help him secure the added bonus of football tickets.
“Why do you think I’m going to Ohio State?” Horton asked.
And when the rookie striker leaves the classroom and takes the field, he is learning from one of the best in fellow forward Jeff Cunningham, who tied the record for most career MLS goals in a July 6 win against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Though they’ve only played for a short time, their relationship goes back years. In fourth grade, Horton brought his favorite Crew player to his class’ show-and-tell in suburban Columbus.
Cunningham admitted he doesn’t remember that day, but that didn’t stop him from taking credit for Horton’s success.
“Obviously, that show-and-tell was a big part of his decision to pursue a soccer career,” Cunningham joked. “That deserves a 10 percent agent fee. I directed him to the right path and now he’s a professional soccer player. By the time he reaches my age , the league will be paying him a substantial amount of money, so hopefully that could be my retirement plan, 401k.
“All the instructions I’ve given him, maybe he can write me a check in a few years to buy a house on the beach,” Cunningham added.
Horton didn’t wholeheartedly dismiss the idea.
“Right now, he’s helping me with my left foot,” Horton said. “If my left foot gets perfect, he’ll get his 10 percent.”
Midfielder Dilly Duka, out since spraining his right ankle June 4, is “very far away” from resuming training, according to coach Robert Warzycha. With midfielder Leandre Griffit (abdominal strain) and defender Josh Williams (hip labral tear) on the injured reserve list, the Crew have space on their roster to keep Duka on for the moment.
Defender Shaun Francis (left hamstring strain), midfielder Rich Balchan (left adductor strain) and forward Emilio Rentería (left quad strain) are listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes.
The Crew went bowling Wednesday instead of practicing. Francis said on his Twitter account that he had a 166 in his second time ever bowling.