Columbus Crew forward Jeff Cunningham was named the Honda MLS Player of the Week by the Professional Soccer Reporters Association (PSRA) for the week ending June 13, 2004 (Week 11). The 27-year old scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season in leading the Crew to a 2-2 draw against the Kansas City Wizards at Crew Stadium on Saturday, June 12. With the tie, the Crew extended their unbeaten streak to seven games, only one point shy of first place in the Eastern Conference.
"I am just trying to win games and in the process my job is to score goals," Cunningham said after the game. "At the same time, my teammates -- Kyle (Martino), Manny (Lagos) -- are doing a good job of creating chances for us. We are getting our chances and fortunately the goals are going in, but we still need to improve."
Cunningham opened the scoring in the 18th minute with a spectacular individual effort. Receiving the ball just outside the penalty area to the right of goalkeeper Tony Meola, he created space with a sudden burst of speed, beating defender Nick Garcia toward the byeline. Meola, seemingly expecting a cross, got caught out of position for the sharp angle chip that floated over him into the far corner of the goal.
"He expected a cross and kind of cheated off the line a little bit, and I toe-poked it and was able to get it by him," Cunningham said. "Normally, Tony (Meola) doesn't let goals like that go in."
Kansas City had a 2-1 lead when Cunningham was brought down in the box by Garcia in the 63rd minute after touching the ball over the head of the Wizards defender. Cunningham fired the penalty kick just out of the reach of a diving Meola to even the score. Cunningham has now scored at least one goal in four consecutive matches, tying him for second on the Budweiser MLS Scoring charts.
"Jeff, for me, is one of the most talented -- if not the most talented -- skillful players I have ever seen," added nine-year veteran defender Robin Fraser. "He's a handful. He's tough to deal with in practice and he's tough for defenders to deal with."
This is the first week that a Crew player has been awarded the League's top weekly honor since Brian McBride was recognized in Week 3 of the 2003 season. Cunningham has now won the award three times during his career: 2002 (Week 20) and 1999 (Week 8). The Honda Major League Soccer Player of the Week is selected every week throughout the MLS regular season by a panel of journalists from the Professional Soccer Reporters Association (PSRA).
2004 PLAYER OF THE WEEK WINNERS:
Week 1: Jaime Moreno (D.C. United)
Week 2: Pat Onstad (San Jose Earthquakes)
Week 3: Fabian Taylor (MetroStars)
Week 4: Carlos Ruiz (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Week 5: Henry Ring (Chicago Fire)
Week 6: Jovan Kirovski (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Week 7: Pat Onstad (San Jose Earthquakes)
Week 8: Alejandro Moreno (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Week 9: Jovan Kirovski (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Week 10: Pat Noonan (New England Revolution)
Week 11: Jeff Cunningham (Columbus Crew)