Columbus Crew compare Eddie Gaven retirement to NFL's Barry Sanders "leaving at the top"
OBETZ, Ohio — When Columbus Crew interim head coach and technical director Brian Bliss got an e-mail from Eddie Gaven's agent Wednesday night asking if the two could meet Thursday morning, he didn't expect the meeting to be the last of Gaven's MLS career. But when Gaven sat down in his office, it was to inform Bliss of his retirement that morning.
“I came in and he was already here,” Bliss told MLSsoccer.com after Friday's training session. “He sat down, met with me, kind of laid it all out. He didn't elaborate on it, he just said, 'Look, I've done my time,' type of thing. 'I'm ready to move on to another chapter of my life,' he said. He wanted to pursue some other things that he felt were important.”
Bliss said that Gaven didn't make a production about his announcement, and that he didn't want to speak in front of the whole team.
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“I asked if he wanted an audience with the team before we went out to training, and he said, 'No, I just want to move around the locker room and talk to guys individually and say it to them,'" Bliss added.
According to Bliss, Gaven was firmly in the plans for the team's 2014 season, and was an important player on the roster that they expected to have back.
“I was surprised. I don't want to say shocked, but surprised. I never expected that from Eddie,” Bliss said. “He's got the energy of an iron man, and I thought he'd play until his legs fell off.
"I can tell you that the last meeting I had with Anthony [Precourt, Crew owner] and Mark [McCullers, president and GM], we had him penciled into the 20-man roster, and figured him into the cap and all that, so that kind of throws a monkey wrench in things. So we're going to have to start looking somewhere we didn't think we would have to look.”
Bliss wasn't the only one in the Crew organization surprised by the news. Veteran defender Danny O'Rourke said Thursday that he was, “kind of in shock” at the news.
“I was kind of [comparing] it to Barry Sanders – leaving at the top of his game,” O'Rourke said. “Eddie’s always been the most consistent player I’ve ever played with – one of the best guys and best players. He was always beating to his own drum.”
Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum who, like O'Rourke, was a teammate of Gaven's during the club's championship run and Supporters' Shield titles, said Gaven's absence will leave a lasting void for the Crew.
“He obviously was a big part of what we did to win a championship," the goalkeeper said. "Year in and year out, any success we’ve had he has always been a big part of it.
"More than that he has always been a great person and I think that is going to be the lasting impression – just how great he is to be around. I think that is going to be one of the biggest losses – just to have a guy like that in the locker room and now all of a sudden he is walking away.”
Andrew King covers the Columbus Crew for MLSsoccer.com.