Horton handles heat in first pro action

Crew's first-ever Home Grown player showed well in debut

Aaron Horton

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Friday will mark a month since Aaron Horton was signed as the
Columbus Crew’s first Home Grown Player. The attacker from suburban
Columbus came through the Crew academy and spent one season at the
University of Louisville.

When asked on May 17 if he expected to get into an MLS match this
season, optimistically replied, “If I keep putting in my time and
working 110 percent, which I will do, then I’ll get my chance. I have to
earn my stripes and hopefully I’ll do that.”

However, even the 19-year-old forward couldn’t have predicted his debut
would come so soon. On June 8, Horton entered in the 89th minute for
Jeff Cunningham and was given the task of trying to stretch the Real
Salt Lake defense with his speed, counterattacking while the Crew held
on for a 2-1 victory.

“It was surreal,” Horton said of his debut.

The moment was made even more special because he replaced his idol,
Cunningham, the player Horton once to took to his fourth grade class for
show-and-tell.

“The last month has been crazy just for the sense of getting my first
professional team, coming in and working hard every day,” Horton said.
“I love it. It’s been a great experience. Honestly, a month ago, I
wouldn’t say that I’d be sitting here now having played in a game.”

He fully understands he was the beneficiary of unusual circumstances leading to his first appearance.

Forwards Tommy Heinemann and Emilio Rentería were injured as were
several attacking midfielders. And winger Robbie Rogers is still on
national team duty.

“There’s a lot of things that have allowed me to get into the lineup,”
Horton said. “At the same time, I have to keep working hard and I have
to be ready when opportunities open up. I was ready on Wednesday.”

Horton said the biggest adjustment as a pro is fitness.

“I still need to work on that,” he said. “I see how much of an impact
it has, especially when you’re training hard every day at this level.”

Polish-born Crew coach Robert Warzycha likes the way MLS is handling the locally-produced talent.

“What’s good for the program and the way we are doing it, the kid is at
home. He is in an environment where he grew up,” Warzycha said. “Most
of us being in European clubs, I went to one miles and miles away from
home.

“I had to live by myself, which is not a big deal, but if you go to a
new town and professional environment, there’s even more pressure,” he
added. “He can see his parents every day. He can see his friends and
then come over here to practice.”

Horton said the only drawback to leaving college early is that he’s the youngest player on the team.

“They all treat me nice,” he said. “Of course, I get some of the rookie
pranks. They sometimes throw my clothes everywhere in the locker room,
but that’s nothing.”