Soccer | Crew: In surprising move, Eddie Gaven calls it quits

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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The Beard is gone.

Eddie Gaven, a Crew fan favorite known for his steady play as well as his thick beard, has announced his retirement in a stunning move.

“For personal reasons, I will be retiring from professional soccer,” Gaven said in a statement. “ 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.”

Having just turned 27 years old last Friday, Gaven was thought to still have some of his best years ahead of him. Teammate Danny O’Rourke likened the news to Barry Sanders retiring from the NFL in 1999 at age 31.

“I saw a long career for Eddie Gaven,” team president and general manager Mark McCullers said. “ I saw a record-breaking career for Eddie Gaven in Columbus. He had the type of staying power and skill set in the way he played the game to play it for a long, long time and really set some records with this organization that would not be touched for years and years. That was my vision of Eddie Gaven going forward.”

Gaven suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a U.S. Open Cup game against the Dayton Dutch Lions on May 29 and underwent season-ending surgery shortly thereafter. While rehabilitating the injury, Gaven occasionally would stop by to see the Crew practice and often spoke of his desire to get healthy and be back on the field.

Less than two weeks ago, interim coach Brian Bliss said Gaven was on target to be active when the team heads to Florida for preseason practice in late January.

A native of New Jersey, Gaven began his 11-year MLS career with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars at age 16 before being traded to the Crew during the 2006 preseason.

Gaven signed a contract extension with the Crew following the 2011 season, taking a pay cut to remain with the club as it tried to bring in new faces to improve the roster. From 2006 to 2012, Gaven played in 198 of the Crew’s 220 games including 188 starts — the most for any player. Gaven was the third-most tenured player on the roster, behind only Chad Marshall and Andy Gruenebaum.

“He’s a special player and a special person,” said former Crew coach Robert Warzycha, who was a member of the coaching staff for every game in Gaven’s career. “He was really an inspiration for all of us. He’s somebody that never takes a shortcut. He’s somebody that is enjoying every single day when he’s on the field. He’s enjoying every single day that he wakes up in the morning because he’s so positive.”

Coupled with the decisions not to bring back midfielder Matias Sanchez and forward Aaron Horton, the Crew has cleared $505,500 of guaranteed compensation from its 2013 roster.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

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