Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven retires from professional soccer

MLS veteran concludes distinguished career after helping Crew to three trophies

Eddie Gaven

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Photos

COLUMBUS — The Columbus Crew today announced that midfielder Eddie Gaven is retiring from professional soccer following 11 seasons in Major League Soccer. The 27-year-old concludes a distinguished playing career that includes more than 278 appearances, 51 goals and 37 assists in MLS regular-season competition. Since joining the Crew from the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 2006, Gaven went on to become a midfield mainstay for the Black & Gold, helping the club to the 2008 and 2009 Supporters’ Shields, along with the 2008 MLS Cup title against his former club. Gaven is stepping away from the game for personal reasons, having last represented the Crew on May 29, 2013 in a third-round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against USL PRO side Dayton during a 2-1 victory. The midfielder sustained a season-ending knee injury in that contest. He departs Columbus as one of the club’s elite performers, posting 209 appearances, 198 starts and 17,252 minutes of regular-season action over eight seasons in Black & Gold, all currently third on the club’s all-time list.

At the time of his retirement, a total of 15 active field players in MLS had amassed more than 22,000 minutes, and Gaven – who turned 27 less than a week ago – was the youngest of that group. Widely respected for his fair play, Gaven was never issued a red card in his career and is one of just five field players in MLS history to play 22,000 minutes or more in a career without an ejection.

“I would like to thank my teammates, the Crew organization and the fans for all their support over the years,” said Gaven. “I will always cherish the memories, especially winning MLS Cup in 2008. I am incredibly blessed to have been a professional soccer player and am extremely grateful to MLS and the Crew for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to fulfill my dream. For personal reasons, I will be retiring from professional soccer. I realize this may come as a surprise, but it is something I have been contemplating for some time, and after discussing it thoroughly with my family, I know in my heart that now is the right time to start the next chapter in my life. I wish the Crew nothing but the best moving forward. Thank you.”

“I remember Eddie Gaven signing as a sixteen-year-old in New York and the immediate impact that he had on the League. We were very fortunate to acquire him, and he’s been a rock for this club,” said Crew President & General Manager Mark McCullers. “He’s been someone we can rely on – a go-to guy who has been integral since his arrival. This is a big loss for us, but I can also understand that Eddie has been doing this for ten years now. For him to want to explore other options with his life and with his family is something I can certainly respect, and I have the utmost appreciation for Eddie Gaven. He’s going to be missed.”

Gaven began his storied 11-year career with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 2003 as a teenager, drafted with the 12th overall pick in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft. At 16 years, 232 days, he became the youngest player in MetroStars history and the second youngest in League history to debut in a June 14, 2003 tilt against Chicago. Less than a month later, Gaven became the second-youngest player in MLS history to score a goal on July 5, 2003 in a now-famous match in which he was subbed on as a goalkeeper. He would record an assist as well in his first MLS season before two monster years.

At 17 in 2004, he posted seven goals and seven assists (three were game-winning) in 29 appearances during a 32-match campaign en route to MLS Best XI honors. That year, Gaven also became the youngest player in MLS history to start in an MLS All-Star match, a feat he accomplished when lacing-up for the East All-Stars in the 3-2 win over the West at RFK Stadium. At 18, he followed-up with eight goals and four assists in 28 starts, missing MLS action for the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship with the U.S. U-20 National team. In his three-year stint with the MetroStars – all before the age of 19 – Gaven amassed 16 goals, 12 assists in 69 appearances – including 62 starts. Before he was traded to the Crew, he had earned 5,526 regular-season minutes.

Gaven became the youngest player in Crew history to score a goal at an almost-veteran 19 years and 252 days in his first season with the Black & Gold in 2006. With the Crew, he led the club in appearances in a single season in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012 and led the team in minutes in three of those four campaigns (2006, 2009, 2012). The Crew’s most fouled player all-time with 418 fouls suffered, he took the brunt of the teams fouls and led the club in each season from 2009-2012, generating plenty of scoring chances from free kicks and restarts.

His consistency in the Crew lineup remains his legacy. In the Crew’s 220 regular-season matches from 2006-2012, Gaven appeared in 199 of them and started 188, the most of any Crew player during that time. It’s no wonder then, that in 2012, at 25 years, 257 days, Gaven became the youngest player in MLS history to play in 250 matches, shattering the previous record by almost four years. Gaven made 15 appearances in MLS Cup Playoffs action, including 14 starts – nine of which were for the Crew. His most famous goal in postseason play was his 2008 Eastern Conference Championship strike against Chicago on November 13, 2008 that sent the Black & Gold to MLS Cup 2008. 

Internationally, Gaven earned eight caps, including two starts, for the senior U.S. National Team. Gaven played for the U.S. at the U-23, U-20, U-17, U-16 and U-14 levels, including spots on the U.S. rosters for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2005 and the FIFA U-17 World Championship in 2003.

“He played the game with integrity. You knew what you were going to get when Eddie stepped on the field,” said Crew Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss. “Eddie was player who was very technically sound, with a good engine and a good vision of the field as well. Eddie’s a consummate pro. He did that at a young age. You go back and look at how many young guys have signed with the League and within two, maybe three years have fizzled out. Eddie was able to sustain himself at a high level for a long period of time and should be looked at by a lot of young players as to how he approached the game. Eddie was the iron man; his durability will be his legacy.”

The club also announced that it has parted ways with midfielder Matias Sanchez and forward Aaron Horton. The 25-year-old Sanchez joined the Crew in February on the heels of a storied career in the Argentine Primera Division with Estudiantes, where he played in 94 matches in all competitions from 2008-2012. He made 14 appearances – including 10 starts – and recorded one goal and one assist in 820 minutes of action with the Crew. Horton, the club’s first-ever Homegrown Player, signed with the club on May 17, 2011. The Lewis Center, Ohio native made his MLS debut in a substitute appearance on June 8, 2011 against Real Salt Lake at Crew Stadium and scored his first professional goal in a friendly match against Barclays Premier League side Stoke City on July 24, 2012.

“We would like to thank Matias and Aaron for their hard work and contributions to our club,” said Bliss. “We wish them both the best of luck in their future pursuits.”