Circle of Honor: Where the heck is (insert notable Crew player)?!?!?
Upon your initial perusal of the 15 finalists for the 2014 Circle of Honor enshrinement, you may have been stumped (or even outraged!) by the omission of some notable Crew players. Like, where is Jeff Cunningham, the Crew’s all-time regular season goals leader? What about 2008 Eastern Conference Final heroes Chad Marshall and Eddie Gaven? And what about Ohio’s own living legend Brad Friedel?
It all comes down to the criteria. One of the criteria is that a player has to be retired for at least one year before becoming eligible. Jeff Cunningham was on trial with a Vietnamese club in late 2013, so he hasn’t been retired for a year yet. Eddie Gaven’s surprise retirement is not yet 12 months deep into the history books. Even if it looks a little odd after a decade in Black & Gold, Chad Marshall can currently be seen on the field every weekend while wearing the rave green of the Seattle Sounders.
Barring any change in playing status, it is anticipated that Cunningham, Gaven and Andy Iro will become eligible in 2015. Other players that have already guaranteed their future eligibility upon retirement are: Edson Buddle, Jon Busch, Emmanuel Ekpo, Andy Gruenebaum, Chad Marshall, Danny O’Rourke and Robbie Rogers (as has Head Coach Sigi Schmid).
Another threshold that players had to clear was being with the Crew in four different seasons. There are definitely some fan favorites who fell short of that mark. John Wilmar Perez’s dramatic goals in the Crew’s comeback win over Kansas City in the 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal paved the way for the Crew’s first trophy, but Pelusa only played three seasons in Columbus. Alejandro Moreno – whose goal-scoring, strong and determined hold-up play and “Do what you do!” mantra helped propel the Crew to glory in 2008 – also came up a year short of qualification. Another pair of Massive Champions – Brian Carroll and Steven Lenhart – are presently a season short. Although, their careers are still active, so anything’s possible.
Other great players didn’t play for four seasons, but met the reduced qualifying threshold by winning MLS awards. (That’s how Robin Fraser qualified, since he was the 2004 MLS Defender of the Year.) Unfortunately, some of these other great players did not qualify overall because they were not part of a trophy-winning team. Stern John, who for two years was easily the most prolific goal-scorer in Crew history (44 goals in 55 league games), fell short despite winning the scoring title and making the Best XI in 1998. Thomas Dooley was named MLS Best XI in both 1997 and 1998, but did not qualify due to a lack of championship hardware. The late 1990s produced a lot of near misses for the Crew and the same holds true for the Circle of Honor.
Brad Friedel, the Ohio legend who dominated in his two seasons in Columbus, winning Goalkeeper of the Year and being named Best XI in 1997, missed out on the title qualification. Plus, he did not play at least 50 regular season games. No Crew fan will ever forget seeing him play during his brief tenure, but alas, it was too brief to qualify for the Circle of Honor.
The Circle of Honor is about recognizing the storied past of the Columbus Crew. It’s also aspirational when looking toward the present and the future. Some new hardware would unlock a slew a potentially eligible candidates. Federico Higuain is a notable example of a current player who has met every qualification criteria except for one.
Pipa has a posse. Now let’s get him a trophy.