For the second straight season, the Columbus Crew failed to make the MLS Cup playoffs after coming up just short on points. As an early offseason started, Crew general manager and president Tim Bezbatchenko began by making the difficult decision to part ways with former head coach Caleb Porter. Porter was the head coach for four seasons, missing the playoffs in 2019, 2021 and 2022 but achieved the ultimate prize, winning the MLS Cup, in 2020.
But before the Crew fanbase turns its full attention to next year, the team released its annual awards on Thursday. Here’s a look at which players were highlighted as the best of the season.
Nationwide Most Valuable Player – Darlington Nagbe
In his third year with the club, Nagbe has won his first team MVP. Nagbe was the only field player to play in all 34 games, all of which were starts. Logging 3,039 minutes the Lakewood, Ohio native missed only 21 game minutes all year.
Nagbe was a key contributor all season, completing the most passes, having the highest pass completion percentage on the team and completing the most passes in the opposing half than any other player on Black & Gold. To accompany Nagbe’s passing efficiency, Nagbe had one of the lowest turnover per 90 ratios on the squad. Nagbe finished the 2022 season with two team of the week awards.
Lower.com Golden Boot – Lucas Zelarayan
Columbus finished the season with 46 goals, 10 of those were scored by Zelarayan. The playmaker was the only Columbus player to finish the season with double digit goals. The Armenian international also recorded a team-high 12 assists, the only player on the squad to record double digit assists.
For the second season in a row, Zelarayan also led the league in goals outside of the penalty box.
Pathways Financial Credit Union Defensive Player of the Year – Eloy Room
Room started all 34 matches for Crew in his fourth season with the club. Room was the only player on the Black & Gold roster to play every minute of each regular season match, logging 3,060 minutes. With 105 saves and a goals against average of 1.21, the Curacao international improved on his 2021 season of 83 saves and a goals against average of 1.3. This is Room’s second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year team award.
Kirk Urso Heart Award – Aidan Morris
The Kirk Urso award has been a special recognition for the team as it honor the former midfielder’s premature passing. This award represents the player who was “the heart” of the team. Morris’ return to the field from an ACL injury early in the 2021 season was marked by his tenacity in the midfield and ability to cover every blade of grass needed. The homegrown midfielder built on his impressive performance in the 2020 MLS Cup Final.
OhioHealth Humanitarian of the Year – Josh Williams
Williams continues to lead Columbus on and off the field. A veteran in the locker room and a fan favorite, Williams used his influence to give back to the community. The Copley, Ohio native championed the “Stuff the Backpack” initiative by United Way. Not only did Williams support students with their needs for school supplies, but he also volunteered his time after every home match to meet with Columbus City Students as a part of the “Stay in the Game” initiative. This initiative aims to combat the absenteeism in Columbus City Schools.
AEP Columbus Crew 2 Player of the Year – Jacen Russell-Rowe
There was no doubt about this award. The Canadian took home many honors in MLS NEXT Pro season, including the Golden Boot, MLS NEXT Pro MVP, and being named to the Team of the Year, as well as multiple Team of the Week honors, all while winning the MLS NEXT Pro Cup with the Black & Gold. Russell-Rowe also earned a first-team contract for his efforts with Crew 2.
Columbia Gas Academy Player of the Year – Gio DeLibera
DeLibera, a 17-year-old midfielder, had a productive year for the Crew Academy. Playing as part of the Crew Under-17s, DeLibera and company made it to the MLS NEXY U-17 finals. DeLibera also earned the MLS NEXT U-17 award for the playoffs even though Crew U-17s ultimately lost the final to Philadelphia Union U-17s.