There is no such thing as an invaluable player to a team. One man's injury can be another man's gain. Next man up. All these sport injury clichés are great, but they do not apply to Eddie Gaven.
Gaven tore his ACL late in the Columbus Crew's 2-1 U.S. Open Cup victory over the Dayton Dutch Lions and will miss the remainder of the season.
It is true that Gaven will have to be replaced and it will give someone else an opportunity to make a name for themselves, but it would be very difficult to provide everything that Gaven brings to the table.
Gaven may be one of the post underappreciated players in MLS, but this was not always the case. Gaven first broke into the league in 2003 with the then New York Metrostars. At the age of 16, he was then the youngest player to be drafted and sign with an MLS team.
He played in 12 games that season, scoring one goal and tallying an assist and followed that up with 29 appearances, seven goals, and seven assists. Gaven seemed to becoming a budding MLS star as he made his first All-Star game appearance and was the youngest player to be named to the MLS Best XI.
In his final year with the Metrostars, Gaven continued to impress, enough to be a part of a big-time trade in the offseason that brought him to the Columbus Crew for Edson Buddle (the Crew also acquired the rights to local product Chris Leitch).
Since coming to Columbus, Gaven may not have blossomed into the superstar many thought he would become, but he has developed into a mainstay in the Crew's lineup and one of the team's most important players. Gaven had perhaps his best season for Columbus in 2007 with five goals and seven assists in the regular season and the game winner in the Eastern Conference Final, as the Crew won their first MLS Cup title in 2008.
Gaven has become the definition of consistency for the team. In his seven seasons with the Crew, Gaven has averaged 2,336 minutes per year. During that time, he has contributed five goals and three assists per year and averaged over 28 games per year. He is the club's second longest tenured player after defender Chad Marshall, Gaven's numbers stand the test of time.
He can be a frustrating figure. He does not possess breakaway speed and doesn't have a bag of tricks on the ball. He is not a free kick specialist and cannot be counted on to win headers around the pitch.
He is rarely man of the match, but when analysts' grades come in, Gave would almost always be at a seven or better.
This becomes even more impressive considering Gaven has been asked to play all over the field for the Crew. While he can generally be found on Columbus' right wing, the 26-yeard old has played on the left wing, in central midfield, in an attacking role behind the strikers, and as a forward. He even famously donned the goalkeeper gloves in a late 2010 match.
Regardless of where Gaven lines up to beginning the match, he provides options for head coach Robert Warzycha depending on how the game is going. Gaven is willing to operate more defensively, but is always going to hustle forward when the team needs him in the attack.
Considering the Crew's motto is America's Hardest Working Team, Gaven has taken over for former Columbus defender Frankie Hejduk as defining that mantra. While he is not the star, Gaven has become one of the faces of the team, scruffy beard and all.
With Gaven out for the season the Crew will miss his constant hustle and wiliness to do whatever it takes for the team. Gaven's absence will put pressure on other players to step up, including the outside backs and whoever fills in Gaven's position. His shoes will not be easy to fill, but Warzycha will have to count on his depth if Columbus is going to be successful and make a return to the MLS Cup Playoffs.