The Columbus Crew’s 2021 season came to an untimely and earlier than expected end when the Crew failed to make the MLS Cup playoffs on the back of winning the league’s championship a year ago. Despite a late-season push, the Black & Gold could not overcome injuries and a summer swoon to return to the postseason for a second consecutive year.
As offseason work begins, the Crew took one last look back at the 2021 season. On Friday, the Black & Gold announced the team’s individual awards for the year, including Most Valuable Player, Golden Boot, Defensive Player of the Year, Kirk Urso Heart Award, OhioHealth Humanitarian of the Year and Academy Player of the Year honorees.
Most Valuable Player — Lucas Zelarayan
In his second season with Columbus, Zelarayan captures his second consecutive MVP award for the club. The Argentine playmaker followed up his MLS Newcomer of the Year and MLS Cup MVP debut season with another fantastic year for the Crew, leading the club with 12 goals and seven assists. Four of Zelarayan’s finishes this year were game-winners and one of his helpers was on a game-winning goal.
In total, Zelarayan appeared 36 times for the Black & Gold in 2021, 32 starts, and added one goal and two assists in CONCACAF Champions League play. He was twice named the MLS Player of the Week.
Golden Boot — Lucas Zelarayan
For the first time since he arrived in Columbus prior to the 2018 season, Gyasi Zardes did not lead the Crew in goals. (He finished second.) That honor went to Zelarayan with 12 finishes on the year.
Zelarayan led MLS with goals outside the penalty box this season, including five free kick goals, tied with Sebastian Giovinco for second most in league history. The Albanian international’s game-winning goal against Orlando City SC on Oct. 7 is a nominee for 2021 MLS Goal of the Year.
Defensive Player of the Year — Eloy Room
The Black & Gold goalkeeper was in fine form in his third season with the club. Room made 30 appearances, all starts, a career high in MLS. The Curaçao international made 83 saves this year while recording seven shutouts and a goals against average of 1.30.
Room is the only goalkeeper in the league to have two saves up for MLS Save of the Year, his stop against Nashville SC on July 21 and his one-legged save against the New England Revolution on Sept. 18.
Kirk Urso Heart Award — Miguel Berry
The second-year forward is the eighth player to receive this prestigious club honor, named after former Crew midfielder Kirk Urso, who prematurely passed away in August of 2012. The award is given to the player who best exemplified the qualities in a teammate and became “the heart” in the locker room each season.
Berry made a rapid rise in the ranks with the Black & Gold after not playing at all as a rookie a year ago. After making his debut and scoring a goal in July against FC Cincinnati, Berry finished the season with eight goals and two assists in 18 appearances, nine starts. He became a very popular figure in the locker room, with star midfielder Darlington Nagbe calling Berry “my idol” during exit interviews with the media.
Humanitarian of the Year — Josh Williams
Williams is a fan favorite for his play as a center back for the Crew, but his work off the field is what earned him the team’s Humanitarian of the Year award. The Ohio native is a member of the Crew Foundation Board of Directors and helps represent the club with work throughout Central Ohio.
This season, Williams hosted the Special Olympics Ohio at the Black & Gold’s Lower.com Field as part of a VIP tour, where he addressed athletes prior to the 2022 USA Games. Williams also took part in the opening of a mini-pitch at Northgate Intermediate School.
Academy Player of the Year — Tyler Crawford
Crawford, a defender, had a fantastic year with the Crew’s Under-18/19 Academy team. A member of the club since 2019, Crawford, 17, recently committed to Michigan State University. He also is a regular volunteer with the club’s Pre-Academy program.