Crew Cuts: Who should be MVP?

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

With Saturday's weird 1-0 victory at New England - highlighted by Gino Padula's accidental game-winning goal - the Crew secured its second straight Eastern Conference title.

They did so without Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Chad Marshall, Robbie Rogers, Frankie Hejduk or Alejandro Moreno, most of the brightest stars on last year's championship team.

With so many injuries, so much national team duty and an insanely busy match schedule padded with Champions League competition, the Crew's depth has been tested more than ever this season. In response, Robert Warzycha deployed every member of his roster with great success.

With season-ending awards coming up, that raises the question: Who should be this year's team MVP? Allow me to offer up five suggestions:

5. Danny O'Rourke

O'Red Card has become O'Rock, one of the most consistent cogs in the Crew machine. They can slot him in at central defense, outside back or defensive midfield and know they're getting a hard-nosed, reliable presence on the pitch.

4. William Hesmer

Often playing behind an inexperienced defense, Hesmer has soldiered on through injury and kept the Crew in some close games. He must occasionally feel like the weathered, weary protagonist of Cormac McCarthy's The Road back there. Still, the Crew has given up some weak goals this season, which weakens Hesmer's MVP stock.

3. Guillermo Barros Schelotto

Guille hasn't replicated his blockbuster league MVP campaign of 2008, but he still leads the Crew in goals (12). And even after that blown penalty kick against Seattle, is there anybody you'd rather see stepping to the spot for the Black and Gold?

2. Eddie Gaven

Who tries harder week after week? You couldn't always say that about Gaven, but the meek, bearded midfielder is now a tireless force. He's appeared in all 28 league matches, tallying six goals - many of them clutch late-game strikes. His defensive effort is voracious. He often suffers the souls that set up free kicks and PKs. And he scored a huge game-winner in Champions League play at Saprissa.

1. Chad Marshall

Thanks to national team duty and injuries, Marshall has only suited up 18 times in league play, but his value has been shown as much in his absence as his presence. Eric Brunner and Andy Iro still have a long way to go before they can adequately replace the league's reigning Defender of the Year.

Marshall is quick, smart and physically dominant. His outlet passes are purposeful. He helps make Brunner and Iro better when they play alongside him. And he gets it done on both sides of the ball, scoring four times this year including once on a long-range free kick.

Columbus Crew at DC United

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17