Columbus Crew midfielder Ross Paule was selected as the Honda MLS Player of the Week by the Professional Soccer Reporters Association (PSRA) for the week ending Sept. 5 (Week 23). The eight-year veteran recorded his first career hat trick in the Crew's 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night, moving Columbus into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference and extending their unbeaten run to 11 games. Paule, who was the 1998 MLS June Player of the Month, earns his first career Player of the Week honor.
Paule found himself in the right place at the right time twice in the first half to stake the Crew to a 2-0 lead. In the 26th minute, Tony Sanneh headed down a Simon Elliott cross in the Galaxy box and Crew forward Edson Buddle kept the ball alive with a deflection in the six-yard box. Unfortunately for the Galaxy, that wasn't the end of the play, as Paule burst into the box to slot the ball home.
Fifteen minutes after opening the scoring, Paule tallied again with ease, finishing off an impressive period of possession by the Crew. Kyle Martino touched the ball to Buddle on his left, and after taking a step to the right, Buddle unleashed a shot that Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman got down to save. The rebound, though, went straight to Paule, who knocked the ball into the open net for his second goal of the game.
"He's been solid since he joined us, and I think he's in a good zone right now," said Crew head coach Greg Andrulis. "He's playing at a high level and he's healthy. Tonight he played a couple different spots in the midfield, and was solid from beginning to end."
In the 68th minute, Paule completed his hat trick and restored the Crew's two-goal lead. Galaxy midfielder Arturo Torres was ruled to have used his upper arm to gain control of a cross in the Columbus penalty box. The Crew's 2003 team MVP stepped up and scored his seventh goal of the season as he easily beat Hartman, who guessed wrong on the spot kick.
"It's a great feeling to get three goals and for it to happen in a win," Paule said after the game. "It felt awesome to get my first professional hat trick. The main thing is I'm getting opportunities and today I was able to convert. I am just benefiting from having great players around me."
Paule, who has now scored in four straight games, is the fourth different Crew player to win the award in 2004 following Jeff Cunningham (Week 11), Edson Buddle (Week 18), and Kyle Martino (Week 21). Justin Mapp of the Chicago Fire was a close second in the voting, but his two goals and two assists in two Fire wins on the week were not enough to beat Paule in the voting. 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 WINNER
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)
Week 12: Alecko Eskandarian (D.C. United)
Week 13: Amado Guevara (MetroStars)
Week 14: Davy Arnaud (Kansas City Wizards)
Week 15: Jeff Cassar (Dallas Burn)
Week 16: Brian Ching (San Jose Earthquakes)
Week 17: Brad Davis (Dallas Burn)
Week 18: Edson Buddle (Columbus Crew)
Week 19: Brian Mullan (San Jose Earthquakes)
Week 20: Jaime Moreno (D.C. United)
Week 21: Kyle Martino (Columbus Crew)
Week 22: Ronnie O'Brien (Dallas Burn)