When Aaron Horton signed as the Crew’s first Homegrown player a year ago on Thursday, he knew that breaking into the first team was a long term goal.
Having played one season at the University of Louisville, the forward from nearby Lewis Center, Ohio looked ahead to playing against professionals years older than him. Despite making his MLS debut in the 89th minute against Real Salt Lake on June 8, those were the only minutes he has received at the highest level. He did, however, appear in six Reserve League games last season.
After being loaned April 30 to the Dayton Dutch Lions of the USL Pro League, he was recalled late last week by the Crew due to several injuries.
“I was disappointed,” Horton said (above left). “I thought I was going to get a lot more minutes than I did but I played the best I could. That’s all I can do.”
Horton’s situation is typical of the dilemma facing the Crew. There just aren’t enough opportunities to get game time for the second and third stringers and those trying to return from injuries.
“They’re doing the best they can,” head coach Robert Warzycha said. “They have to practice hard and be ready. There’s nothing else they can do.”
The Crew had four Reserve League games from March 24 to April 14 but the schedule doesn’t resume until June 10. There are two games in both June and July, one in August and the finale is Sepember 30.
“Every rookie and a lot of players in the league deal with not playing,” rookie midfielder Kirk Urso said. “It’s something where you’ve got to fight and work for your spot.”
The opportunities to impress the staff are limited in the coming weeks because the Crew don't play a regular season first team match between May 27 and June 16, when they head to New England to battle the Revolution at Gillette Stadium. A U.S. Open Cup match is scheduled for May 29 and if the Crew win, they will also play the following week but after losing to lower division Richmond last season, Warzycha said he will field a stronger team.
“We played last year with a reserve team at home and we lost,” he said. “We have to make sure we win those games.”
A friendly vs. English club Stoke City on July 24 could also present another chance for someone like Horton, who turns 20 on Saturday.
In the meantime he said training with experienced players has helped as he awaits his next game.
“It’s definitely making me a better player, a smarter player and I’m young, too,” Horton added. “It’s tough. We all want to play. I go through my down spots but it’s nice to be around a great group of guys. They keep me going.”