Send us a message

Interested in being a part of the team? Get in touch with us today.
Oct 312013

If you’re looking for fond reminiscing about Eddie Gaven’s career in Columbus you’ve come to the wrong place. There are plenty more “memorials” out there that will paint the image of a humble man who left a lasting impression on the Columbus Crew; which is 100% accurate.

But I want to talk about something different. I want to talk about his legacy on the greater American soccer landscape.

Eddie Gaven signed with the old Metrostars in 2003 at the age of 16. He was the original MLS prodigy. He was the first (but certainly not the last) attempt to generate buzz for MLS during its darker days. Freddy Adu would go on to become the youngest player to sign with and play for an MLS team, but Eddie Gaven was the original.

Gaven would go on to make 69 appearances for the Metrostars from 2003-2005 and then he signed with Columbus in 2006. He ultimately made 209 appearances for the Black And Gold and was an integral part in helping them earn two Supporters Shields (2004, 2008) and one MLS Cup (2008). His game didn’t necessarily reflect the flashy hype that surrounded his signing with the Metrostars. He was primarily used as a wide midfielder in Columbus where he tirelessly chased the game from box to box on the flanks without complaint. He scored a handful of goals each season and tallied a few assists as well. By all measures, he has been an above average MLS player ever since he came to Columbus in 2006.

So you can imagine the shock that is still being felt when he suddenly came to the Crew at the age of 27 and said he wanted to focus his attention on the next phase of his life. Professional athletes who retire at such a “young” age are few and far between. That burning desire to play at an elite level is what keeps them going. Although he is young by your typical professional soccer standards, Gaven seems to have lost that burning desire.

And that’s okay.

As the original teen phenom, Gaven got his first taste of professional soccer right around the same time he was preparing to get his drivers license. He started so much sooner than most professional athletes, regardless of the sport. Over the last year or two I’ve had to remind myself of this as I watched him jog up and down the field with that borderline sad basset hound look on his face. Even though he was still a few years away from hitting that “plateau” of 30 years old, he looked beaten beyond his years.

Many people out there (myself included) have criticized Landon Donovan for lacking that same burning desire and simply going through the motions. If the US is ever going to turn into a World Cup contender and a major player in the global market for soccer, it needs players willing to sweat and toil and earn a spot in the starting XI for great teams as early in their lives as possible. They need to be robots who simply want to know when the next game is. It sounds harsh, but look around the professional soccer landscape and you’ll see plenty of great players who started making regular first team appearances before the age of 21. Those players hit the “prime” of their careers right around the age of 26-27.

Eddie Gaven was not one of those players. And that’s OK!

His retirement, however, comes at a very interesting time. The New England Revolution have found their own teenage phenom in Diego Fagundez. At the age of 18 he is leading his team into the MLS playoffs and appears to have a bright future ahead of him. I would be stunned if he wound up retiring at the age of 27 like Gaven. He’ll go on to have a long and prosperous career, whether it’s in MLS or elsewhere. He’ll be one of those “robots” I mentioned.

With Gaven retiring right before New England takes on Kansas City in the Eastern Conference playoffs, it appears we have closed the book on one chapter in American soccer history and opened another. Eddie Gaven’s retirement signals the end of the “teenage phenom” era of MLS and American Soccer. With the arrival of Fagundez and other young players like Columbus’s Wil Trapp, Real Salt Lake’s Luis Gil, and even former DC United winger Andy Najar, we are no longer wowed by young players under the age of 21 starting regularly for MLS teams. Take a look over at Europe and you’ll see guys like 20 year old John Anthony Brooks playing regularly with Germany’s Hertha Berlin. 18 year old midfield sensation Julian Green has been tearing it up with Bayern Munich’s reserves and looks poised to receive his first US Men’s National team call up. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him make a couple appearances with Bayern’s first team in the next year or two. And that team is stacked!

Yes, other teenage phenoms from MLS’s dark past like Landon Donovan and Freddy Adu are still playing and won’t call it quits so soon. But the timing of Gaven’s retirement is still significant in terms of how far we’ve come in terms of expectations for player development in American soccer. There is still a ton of room to grow, but the first step is recognizing the need for players to get meaningful first team minutes early on.

As I mentioned above, Eddie Gaven lost the burning desire needed to succeed at such a high level much quicker than most players. And again: that’s OK! Landon Donovan has also lost that desire to a certain extent given his “sabbatical” last December and his decision to leave an impressive stint at Everton to return to MLS where he is less challenged as a player. However, Gaven will still be the last player we see retire at such a young age. He’s the last of the “old” teenage phenoms if you will; the ones who used up their passion a bit too quickly. Now we’ll start to see young Americans keep that passion kindled throughout long and prosperous professional careers.

Please don’t think of Eddie Gaven as a quitter though. He’s not. He’s simply the last of one generation of American soccer players. He can hold his head high walking away on his own terms.

And he can do so knowing he helped usher in a new generation of American soccer players.

Adam Uthe

VP of Content Development for GFT and proud supporter of Columbus Crew (MLS) and Liverpool FC (EPL). @AUtheGFT

  4 Responses to “Columbus Crew Midfielder Eddie Gaven Retires”

  1. You may want to edit those supporter shield years.

  2. If you are looking for a good example of a young prodigy who is still somehow playing, go to Bobby Convey. Started playing for D.C. I think (?) at 16, had enormous hype, has had a fairly decent career (went to England and played in the 2006 World Cup,) but at 30 looks completely done as a professional player.

 Leave a Reply



Refresh Image


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>