Columbus Crew defender Robin Fraser capped a remarkable season in which he led his club to its first-ever Supporters Shield by winning the league's Defender of the Year award on Friday in Los Angeles.
Fraser becomes the first Crew player ever to win the award, the first to win with two different teams -- he earned in the honor while with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 1999 -- and the second player to be named Defender of the Year twice.
The Crew acquired Fraser in a trade with the Colorado Rapids this past offseason, and the 37-year-old MLS veteran played a huge role in transforming the Crew's mediocre defense of 2003 into one of the league's top units this season. The Crew finished the year tied for second in the league in goals allowed with 32, and notched 10 shutouts.
"I've been saying it all along that, as a defender, you don't win individual awards unless you're part of a good, hardworking organized team, and really I'm benefiting from what was just a tremendous group of guys," Fraser said. "When you're that organized, things are a little bit more predictable as a defender, and, you know, everyone ends up looking better."
|Past Award Winners|
|2003||Carlos Bocanegra (CHI)|
|2002||Carlos Bocanegra (CHI)|
|2001||Jeff Agoos (S.J.)|
|2000||Peter Vermes (K.C.)|
|1999||Robin Fraser (L.A.)|
|1998||Lubos Kubik (CHI)|
|1997||Eddie Pope (D.C.)|
|1996||John Doyle (S.J.)|
Fraser stepped in and immediately became the captain of head coach Greg Andrulis's team, lending a calming presence in the middle of the Crew defense. Playing a good portion of the season between two young players in Marshall and Akwari, Fraser led by example. Extremely talented both positionally and in a somewhat free role in the back three, Fraser helped eliminate some of the pressure on his young teammates, and both turned in solid performances throughout the campaign.
Fraser also had an enormous impact on the one of the most impressive feats in MLS history -- the Crew's league-record 18-game unbeaten streak. During the streak, the Crew allowed only 16 goals and registered seven shutouts, with Fraser commanding the back line in all but one of those matches. Over the course of the entire season, Fraser missed just two games, one due to a red-card suspension and one near the end of the year, after the Crew had clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Columbus 'keeper Jon Busch, himself a finalist for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, often credited Fraser and the rest of the Crew defense for his gaudy numbers this season, citing their ability to limit the number of shots that made it through to Busch's goal.
While the 2004 season may be his best in his nine-year MLS career, Fraser is no stranger to success in the league. In addition to his Defender of the Year campaign in 1999, Fraser has been named to the MLS Best XI four times, and is considered a sure bet to be named to his fifth Best XI on Saturday.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.