2004 Club by Club
The Crew took the field with a decidedly different look in 2004, after missing the playoffs in 2003, and the dramatically rebuilt roster put together a historic season. Following a slow start, the Crew did not lose a game after June 26 in compiling the longest unbeaten streak in MLS history.
The 18-game unbeaten run (8-0-10) lasted through the end of the regular season and culminated in the club's first-ever Supporters Shield - awarded to the team with the top overall regular-season record - and first regular-season Eastern Conference title. The Crew finished 12-5-13, for 49 points, establishing new franchise records for most points and fewest losses in a season and head coach Greg Andrulis was named MLS Coach of the Year.
Unfortunately, the Crew's good fortune ran out in the playoffs, when it dropped a two-game, total-goals Eastern Conference Semifinal series to New England, by a 2-1 aggregate score. Incredibly, Columbus had two penalty kicks saved in the return leg at Crew Stadium.
The offseason addition of veteran stalwarts Robin Fraser and Simon Elliott bolstered the lineup, as did the rapid emergence of rookies Chad Marshall and Chris Wingert. Fraser, who was named MLS Defender of the Year at the conclusion of the season, was instrumental in helping to develop Marshall, the No 2 overall pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft who went on to be named a finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year honors.
The club's future received another boost on July 22, when The Crew won the rights to highly sought after 17-year-old US youth national learn star Danny Szetela in a weighted lottery televised live on ESPN News. Jon Busch continued his steady ascension to the ranks of elite MLS goalkeepers in 2004, earning a trip to his first All -Star Game and posting a 12-5-12 record and a 1.07 goals-against average Fraser and Frankie Hejduk joined Busch at the All-Star Game. Edson Buddle led the way offensively, collecting 24 points, on 11 goals and two assists, including a club-record four-goal game on Sept. 18 against the MetroStars.
Like any other, the 2004 season was not without change.
President/General Manager Jim Smith left the club in July to accept on executive position with the NFL Atlanta Falcons and Crew Stadium GM Mark McCullers succeeded him as General Manager. Jeff Cunningham's 62nd and final goal in Black & Gold tied him with Brian McBride atop the club's all-lime list, before he was traded to Colorado during the offseason. And after the season, the last active player from the inaugural 1996 campaign, Brian Maisonneuve, announced his retirement after battling ankle injuries for years.