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Santos, Zardes highlight Crew’s 2019 team award winners

The Black & Gold awarded their top performers of the 2019 season.

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC announced the 2019 team awards on Friday afternoon and many familiar names are going home with some new hardware.

The Crew named midfielder Pedro Santos as the team’s Acura Most Valuable Player for the 2019 season. After scoring just one goal and registering nine assists in his first two seasons for the Black & Gold, Santos thrived under first-year head coach Caleb Porter, exploding for a single-season career-high 11 goals, the second-most on the team, as well as six assists.

The Portuguese midfielder moved from his wing spot to a central attacking midfield position following the season-ending injury to Federico Higuain in late May. Santos registered two game-winning goals and four game-winning assists in 2019. In games where Santos registered an assist, Columbus had a 5-0-0 record. Santos led the Crew in minutes played (2,763), completed dribbles (61), successful crosses from open play (23) and duels won (240). In 2019, Santos was named to the MLS Team of the Week four times, the most for a Black & Gold player this year.

Gyasi Zardes took home the Crew’s Golden Boot award in 2019, the second consecutive year the forward has led Columbus in scoring. Zardes scored 13 goals in 28 appearances for the Black & Gold, the third-highest mark in a season of his career. Zardes also registered his first two assists as a member of the Crew in 2019.

Following his 19-goal debut season for the Black & Gold last year, Zardes’ total of 32 regular season finishes has him tied for 10th place on Columbus’ all-time scoring list with former Crew forward Kei Kamara. Zardes also played the second-most regular season minutes (2,478) and won the second-most aerial duels (65) for the Crew this season.

Jonathan Mensah was named the Black & Gold’s 2019 Defender of the Year. The Ghanian defender made 24 appearances, 23 starts, during the regular season and led Columbus in clearances (109), headed clearances (62) and aerial duels won (72) despite missing time with injuries and national team call-ups.

The center back joins Brad Friedel (1996, 1997) and Chad Marshall (2008, 2009, 2010, 2013) as the only players in Crew history to win the Defender of the Year Award more than once and is the first player since Marshall to win the award in consecutive years.

Luis Argudo is the Black & Gold’s 2019 OhioHealth Humanitarian of the Year. In addition to playing in a career-high 21 games, with a career-best 10 starts, and registering his first professional goal and assist (he finished the season with three), the midfielder was face of the 2019 Get a Kick Out of Reading program with the Milo Grogan Boys & Girls Club and volunteered for local youth soccer clinics. Argudo also participated in the Columbia Gas Community Clean-Up Day to help assist the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department in cleaning up Goodale Park and hosted a bowling and pizza party for pediatric cancer patients and survivors and their families in cooperation with Nellie’s Champions for Kids as part of MLS WORKS’ Kick Childhood Cancer campaign.

Jon Kempin received the 2019 Kirk Urso Heart Award. The award is named after former Crew player Kirk Urso, who past away during his rookie season with the Black & Gold in 2012 due to arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy. Voted by his Crew teammates, the goalkeeper was chosen as the player that best exemplified the qualities of a teammate and became “the heart” of the Black & Gold’s locker room.

Kempin played in five games in all competitions for Columbus, three in MLS, and recorded one shutout in 2019.

JT Harms was named the Crew SC Academy Player of the Year in 2019. A member of the Crew’s Under-16/17 team, the goalkeeper made 23 appearances with six shutouts. He was also a regular at the Black & Gold’s first-team practices throughout the season. At 17 years old, Harms has made 38 appearances for the Crew Academy, recording eight total shutouts.