It's reasonable to say that Marlon Hairston enjoyed a personal-best season in his nascent professional soccer career in 2017.
It started with an invite to the US men's national team's January camp, his first involvement with the senior national team. Then with the Colorado Rapids, he followed up a breakout 2016 season by appearing in all 34 matches, including 29 starts. Strength to strength.
Heading into his age-24 season, Hairston had high hopes for 2018. But those hopes didn't translate to reality as Hairston picked up an injury and fell out of favor with the new Rapids' coaching staff, making just 15 appearances, most of which coming at wingback. He failed to find the back of the net for the first time since 2015, when he made just three appearances due to injuries.
Considering expectations, it's reasonable to say that Marlon Hairston endured a personal-worst season in his career in 2018.
“It was difficult for me," Hairston told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. "In 2017, getting to play every game and be a big part of the team, I came into 2018 with big expectations for myself. Unfortunately I had a knee injury that derailed me, but it was tough. New coaching staff, new players, it was definitely different.”
The Rapids acquired right back Keegan Rosenberry this offseason, ostensibly rendering Hairston surplus to requirements. As such, he was traded to the Houston Dynamo in January, marking the end of his career with the team that drafted him. It was time.
Thanks @ColoradoRapids for giving this 19yr old kid 5 unforgettable years! To the coaches and staff, my teammates, the fans, I’m forever grateful for all of you! Ready for the next chapter of my career with @HoustonDynamo! Excited to get to work 💪🏾🧡! pic.twitter.com/cWcCasxRF1— Marlon Hairston (@MARLYG94) January 11, 2019
“It wasn’t sad, because I kind of found out that it was coming," Hairston said. "It was something that I wanted — I wanted something new, a breath of fresh air. Colorado had been good to me for five years but I was ready to move on."
All in all, Hairston made 95 appearances with seven goals and 13 assists for the Rapids. He helped guide the team to an appearance in the 2016 Western Conference Championship.
Now, Hairston is looking forward to his new adventure in Houston. He began most answers with "I'm excited"-- Excited for a fresh start, excited that Dynamo boss Wilmer Cabrera sees him as a winger, excited to be closer to home — Jackson, Mississippi is just six hours away from Houston — and excited to play for an attack-minded team.
"It’s not bad being a conservative team at all, but to be able to come to a team in Houston and be able to have that freedom going forward is exciting, man, it’s very fun to be a part of," Hairston said. "We have a bunch of attack-minded players, I think once I continue to find my chemistry with the players around me, we’ll be a very exciting team this season.
“I’m very excited, Houston is a team I played against that had a bunch of threats," Hairston added. "Everyone in the league knows who their threats are, and being an attacking team you have to be ready to take risks, that’s the kind of player I want to be able to be.”
Hairston's first game action with his new club can come sooner than most, as the Dynamo are preparing for the Concacaf Champions League, with a Round of 16 tie against Guatemalan side Guastatoya on Feb. 19.
“Being able to win a trophy is very hard in this league, it’s my sixth year in the league and I haven’t won anything yet," Hairston said. "For me, it’s definitely something that I want to accomplish. This team won an Open Cup last year, we’re very excited to be a part of this tournament and we’re going to take it very seriously.”