The Crew had announced that they were looking to add to the Circle of Honor this season. They even set a day to acknowledge the new inductee, Saturday, September 27. The team was unveiled the next step this week. Fifteen names made the cut ranging from legends to dutiful servants of the club.
The front office tried to develop a process to winnow down the list of candidates. Players have had to have appeared for the team in at least 50 league matches and been on the roster four years while being retired for a year. That requirement can be cut to two years if the player landed in the MLS Best XI, won an individual award, or captained the team to an MLS Cup.
This set of requirements excludes Massive Champion Alejandro Moreno, but does allow for 2004 MLS Defender of the Year Robin Fraser to make an appearance as candidates. Looking ahead, Jeff Cunningham, Eddie Gaven, and Andy Iro will be eligible in 2015.
The Circle of Honor extends to coaches and they get a more stringent criteria to make the list. A coach has to have been a head coach for five seasons or a lesser amount if they were on staff for ten. The requirement is cut to three if the coach led the team to the MLS Cup. Greg Andrulis is eligible as he helmed the team for five seasons and was on staff from 1996 to 2005. Sigi Schmid and Robert Warzycha will both be eligible when they leave coaching.
The full list can be broken down into three groups. The criteria allows for some names not commonly associated with Crew greatness. These are the players that built a reputation as steady performers. They have earned the honor of being considered, but unlikely more.
The second group is those players who are a cut above. They made their mark on the team and were excellent, but maybe not quite good enough to reach the rarified air of the Circle of Honor.
The last group is exclusive company. They don't just embody what it means to be a Columbus Crew player, they put their stamp on the team. They changed the course of club history. These players are best of the best.
The Dutiful Soldiers - These men put forth solid contributions to the Crew, but fall short of being a member of the Circle of Honor:
Greg Andrulis (2001-2005) - The only coach on the list. He lead the 2002 team to the Open Cup title. He also won coach of the year in 2004 when he guided the 2004 team to the Supporters Shield.
Jason Garey (2006-2010) - Garey never truly found his footing in MLS, but he did have some stellar moments with the club. His back breaking brace against New England in September 2008 was the statement that the Crew were the best team in the league.
Todd Yeagley (1996-2002) - 10th in league appearances with the team at 138 in midfield, but wasn't a standout on those early Crew teams. He was effective player who did his job without fuss.
Kyle Martino (2002-2006) - The sky appeared to be the limit for Martino after winning MLS Rookie of the Year in 2002. His production declined as either teams started to get physical with him or an injury suffered during the 2003 Confederations Cup slowed him. His playing career was done in 2007.
Duncan Oughton (2001-2010) - His indefatigable spirit that made him a fan favorite. He resurrected his playing career after a terrible knee injury that forced him to the sidelines for over a year. He crafted a fine career with 136 appearances for the team, but it falls short of the Circle of Honor.
Dante Washington (1996, 2000-2002, 2004) - A solid striker who did his best work away from Crew Stadium with F.C. Dallas. Hall of Fame contributor to Sirk's Notebooks
William Hesmer (2007-2012) - Fleeting understated greatness for Hesmer. He was a full time starter for five years, but injury interrupted two of those seasons. Not the biggest or quickest, but always in the right place.
Mike Lapper (1997-2002) - A U.S. National Team defender on his best days, but injury stole bits and pieces of his time with the Crew.
Brian West (1998-2003) - The breathtaking speed was often the start of something good for the Crew, but never seemed to fit the way those late 90s teams played. He was a bit of a square peg in a round hole.
The Ring of Very Good - These players touched on greatness, but maybe not quite often enough.
Robin Fraser (2004-2005) - Fraser won the MLS Defender of the Year Award as his career wound down. He captained that indefatigable 2004 team as it scraped towards the Supporters Shield. One great and another very good season leaves him short of others on this list.
Mike Clark (1996-2003) - Clark may have the other problem. He was a solid and dependable defender for eight seasons for the team, playing in an average of 28 games a year over his career. His 221 games ranks second all time behind Chad Marshall for most games played. He made two All-Star Games, but was never considered one of the best in the league during his career.
Brian Maisonneuve (1996-2004) - A World Cup veteran from 1998 and a brilliant attacking talent in midfield, but his devastating ankle injury after the 1999 season derailed his career. He'd miss the whole 2000 season and be forced to retire by the age of 31. He still put together an excellent career with 23 goals and 37 assists, but his will always be a case of "what if".
Robert Warzycha (1996-2002) - The man synonymous with the Columbus Crew. He was part of every season until his dismissal as head coach last year. He was a English Premier League veteran who had bounced around Europe until enjoying a career renaissance with Columbus. His 61 assists is still a club record as he was very adept at picking out the bruising forwards on free kicks. Perhaps a case of being raised up by the talent around him.
The Inner Circle - These players are the few that are team legends. They have left a mark on the club that will not be forgotten.
Frankie Hejduk (2003-2010) - Hejduk patrolled right back with reckless abandon. He would fly up and down the wings for 90 minutes plus. His energy was seemingly limitless even as he headed into his 30s. He was bound for his third World Cup at the age of 32, but cruelly tore his ACL the month before the tourney. Hejduk would rebound and become a key cog of the resurgent Crew as he captained the team during the magical 2008 run.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto (2007-2010) - Schelotto played to win. He joined the rebuilding efforts in 2007 as the great 2008 championship team was starting to take shape. He adapted to the league and his teammates adapted to him. The next year he had one of the best seasons in league history. His 7 goals and 19 assists set the stage for his post season. He didn't score, but still notched six assists as he led the Crew to the title. Schelotto would play two more seasons, getting 23 goals and 11 assists as his role changed. He still played to win until the end.