Editorial (January 26, 2018) – Colorado Rapids midfielder Marlon Hairston was called into the United States Men’s National Team earlier this month as part of their annual January Camp. This is Hairston’s first taste of international play at the senior level. It’s a big accomplishment and a could act as a springboard for his 2018 season for club and country.
Marlon Hairston USMNT Call-Up: Deserved and a Positive Step for 2018 Club Season
Hairston has grown into his own since coming to the Rapids in 2014. He’s played well as both a right midfielder and right back, even when the team struggled overall. His offensive output has been on the rise the last two years as well. He’s quietly been one of the better American right wing players in MLS.
With all the post-World Cup Qualification failure changes coming to the USMNT, a fresh crop of young MLS players were called into January Camp including 15 players yet to make their senior team debut. Hairston is one of those 15 hoping to make his first appearance this weekend against Bosnia & Herzegovina.
“It’s been a really good experience. Great group of guys. I’m just trying to enjoy every moment of it. The playing has been [at a high level]. It’s intense, but it’s something you want to be a part of,” said the 23-year-old.
With the arrival of Head Coach Anthony Hudson, the club is looking to move to a 3-5-2 with wing backs. Hairston is in a perfect position to become the starting right wing back and combine his abilities as both a right midfielder and right back. Combined with the new training regiment Coach Hudson is instituting, this could be the most anticipated season of Hairston’s career.
The Hairston USMNT call-up is perfectly timed in all of this. It’s an initial reward to the player who’s improved within MLS. It is a good building block for his club season: Hairston is an expected starter in Colorado this year. At January Camp, there’s no expectations and an open competition. He is going to have to earn his first senior team cap and everything that comes after that.
“It’s a great opportunity to get fit and go into preseason with [Colorado] in tip top shape.”
This January Camp call-up is instilling the right mindset for Hairston going into his club season. He’ll return to Rapids preseason training in a good mindset and with motivation, regardless of the January Camp outcome.
“Receiving this call-up was a big accomplishment for me, but as easy as the opportunity could come around, it could just as easily be taken away so I’m trying not to take anything for granted.”
What happens next for Hairston is all up to him. The USMNT pool has talent and depth at right back. DeAndre Yedlin and Graham Zusi have been solid regardless of overall team failures the last 12 months. Eric Lichaj is playing very well over in England for Nottingham Forest F.C. A number of MLS teams are experimenting with American born talent at right back as well.
“I’m just trying to work as hard as I can to become a mainstay in the squad. I’m focusing right now, putting my head down and working as hard as I can to hopefully earn my first cap and be in the squad. If not, then I want to continue to leave my imprint in the coaches’ minds and continue to receive future call-ups.”
Fairly or unfairly, a good player on a bad MLS team isn’t getting chosen for the USMNT ahead of those three players. Hairston is going to have to up his game. So will the Rapids. And their improvement will have to be in part because of Hairston’s improvements. If Hairston can be one of the best right backs in MLS in 2018, he’ll absolutely earn another look from the USMNT, regardless of who the next head coach is.