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Eddie Gaven leaves on his own terms

Eddie Gaven's announcement to retire at 27 shocked the league, but it really highlights what makes Eddie... Eddie.

USA TODAY Sports

Eddie Gaven retired yesterday, a week after his 27th birthday. It was a shocking and unexpected announcement. Gaven has been a model pro since joining the league as a 16 year old in 2003 and had appeared in 278 regular season games.

Gaven was the consummate teammate. He'd been a member of the Black and Gold since coming in a trade for Edson Buddle before the 2006 season. He was the steady right winger on the 2008 MLS Cup winners and the understated veteran on the transitional teams of the post-championship era.

His play on the field was much like he was off of it, understated. He didn't have a fierce shot and wasn't known for his pace. He looked like a stiff breeze might knock him down. As a physical specimen, he didn't stand out. It was what was underneath that made Eddie Gaven great. He could run all day. Run is a bit of a misnomer as he often appeared to glide across the field. He'd show up in the right spots and make the right decision. That effort doesn't always get noticed, but makes the difference.

Gaven never sought out the spotlight, but it found him. He was a teenage prodigy for his hometown Metrostars. He even made the MLS Best XI team in 2004 as a 17 year old. He was part of the future for an abysmal 2006 Crew team. He grew into a valuable part of the excellent 2008 team. Widely respected in the locker room, he was never the vocal leader. His voice rarely was louder than a whisper, but he lead by example.

Gaven never fit the mold of the pro athlete. He never started a twitter account or a blog. He'd answer report's questions, but unfailing point to his teammates when recounting his play, even if it was a goal off a brilliant individual effort. He often remarked he was more comfortable reading a book at home than going out for a night on the town. Even during his recovery from his torn ACL, he'd show up to practice to be around his teammates. While other players would jump into their SUVs or luxury sedans, Gaven climbed into his Honda Fit and headed off to the rest of his day.

Ultimately, I never got the sense that soccer was what defined Gaven. I don't doubt that he loved playing and his effort never faltered, but ultimately it was just one of many things he wanted out of life. The injury layoff was a forced vacation from the game and he might have come to the realization that he could live without it.

MLS has seen many young players retire, but rarely while they are in their prime. Gaven was clear in his statement "I know in my heart that now is the right time to start the next chapter in my life." He didn't call a press conference. He's not setting up interviews. Knowing him, he'd likely wonder what all the fuss is about.

Selfishly I'm sad that I never get to see Eddie Gaven prowling the attacking third for the Crew again. Looking at the bigger picture, I'm happy for him. He gets to leave on his terms. He gets to spend more time with his growing family and move on to whatever is next.

Thank you Eddie and good luck.