“I think Marlon could be one of the best right backs in this country.”
Colorado Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni had words of very high praise for Marlon Hairston after an impressive performance at the right back position on Saturday. The Rapids won their second game in nine tries this season with their 3-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes and halted a five-game losing streak. It was their first win since the season opener and it was the first time since the 2016 season opening match that Hairston, who usually plays an attacking winger position, played on defense.
“He likes to be up top, doing his thing, but he’s one of our best one-v-one defenders,” Mastroeni said.
Hairston’s pace and attack-oriented mind creates a huge advantage for the Rapids. He displayed his willingness to press the ball forward on Saturday in the first half when he ventured all the way from his defensive position and secured a shot on goal. He also flashed great recovery skills and consistently pestered Earthquake attackers after they had seemingly gotten past him. A player with a motor like Hairston’s is vital on defense. Seeing Hairston playing in a defensive position was a change for goalkeeper Tim Howard, but it reminded him of playing with USMNT teammate DeMarcus Beasley, who has also been known to play both winger and defender.
“I played with Beasley for a long, long time, and I believe that wingers make really good defenders if they’re committed,” Howard said. “I think you saw Marlon’s commitment in terms of defending one-on-one, latching onto some of their strikers, also defended the back post from headers. I thought he was very good there. He definitely gave us an element in terms of speed.”
So what does Hairston think of his performance at right back?
“It was fine. I just tried to do the simple things as best as I could, tried to get the angles to the guys on the ball and get the ball off my feet as quickly as I could,” Hairston said.
Now the question becomes whether or not Mekeil Williams will return to his right back position when he returns after serving a one game suspension for a red card he drew against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Mastroeni made it clear that he thought that this performance by the Rapids was the best all season, and we all know the popular phrase used in sports: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So, expect Hairston to again be at right back for the Rapids in their next game against Bastian Schweinsteiger and the Chicago Fire on Wednesday.
Hairston said after the game that he’d still prefer to play as an attacking winger over a right back, but that he was okay with playing any position if it helps the team. As long as the Rapids keep winning, right back is Hairston’s position. The Rapids remain in last place in the Western Conference after the victory.