Horton clutch once more for Louisville

Cards' freshman forward again steps up, scores in waning moments

Louisville’s Aaron Horton is getting used to being the hero.

A
week ago, the freshman forward from Ohio put the Cardinals into the
Final Four with a late goal in a victory against the UCLA Bruins.

On
Friday, against North Carolina, Horton again stepped up for Louisville.
With three minutes left and with the game deadlocked at 1-1, the match
seemed destined to be defined in penalty kicks. But then Horton came on.

The substitute striker took a pin-point pass from sophomore midfielder Ryan Smith
to author the game winner with a classy finish with the outside of his
right foot, chipping the ball over Tar Heels’ goalkeeper Scott Goodwin
in the final minute of play.

Back-to-back goals, back-to-back wins for Louisville.

“Basically,
Ryan was the one who made that play happen,” said Horton, deflecting
credit to his teammate. “He got the ball and started dribbling and took
it out wide and slipped it through so I could finish. I knew if the
opportunity came that we were going to put it away because that’s what
we’ve been doing all season.

“I just slotted it away and now we’re heading to the national championship.”

The
goal-scoring hero started the match on the bench behind first team
All-American and star forward Colin Rolfe. Despite Rolfe’s pedigree,
Horton found plenty of opportunities to join the fray.

Throughout
the match when he came in, Horton showcased his audacity by constantly
running at the North Carolina defense. Multiple times, the mercurial
freshman found himself surrounded by Tar Heels defenders only to dribble
through and find himself barreling towards goal.

This ability
to come in late and make an immediate impact did not start on the snowy
pitch at Cardinals Park last week or even Friday night in Santa Barbara,
but on the training ground. Partnered with someone as accomplished as
Hermann Trophy finalist Rolfe, Horton developed into a player capable of
delivering in clutch situations.

Following the victory against
North Carolina, head coach Ken Lolla stressed that the pair were
instrumental in the Cardinals’ success. With Rolfe playing a great deal
of the match and using his physical play to soften up defenses, Horton
was able to use his speed to attack the back line.

“Coach and I
have really stressed his practice habits and that the harder he works on
the practice field, then the better he will perform [in a game]. I’m
sure he’s a believer in that now,” said Rolfe. “To see him reach his
stride at a moment like this is great and I’m very happy for him.”

Horton
has progressed a great deal through the season, but has flown under the
radar as one of Lolla’s options off the bench. The season was so modest
for the freshman that he finished the 2010 season with only three
goals, an output that he has nearly eclipsed in the postseason.

With
the Cardinals set to put their undefeated record on the line against
mighty Akron in the College Cup Final on Sunday, Lolla doesn’t envision
that Horton’s role will change one bit.

“We’re going to continue to wait till late, and then throw him in.”

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