COLUMBUS – The shaggy hair and scraggly beard of Eddie Gaven aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future now that the Crew midfielder has signed a multi-year deal with the club.
“I’m super, super happy to be back with the team next year,” Gaven said following the announcement on Monday. “I can’t wait to get back out there and help the team get better next year.”
The 25-year-old is the first – and could quite possibility be the only – of Columbus’ four out-of-option midfielders to re-sign. Robbie Rogers and Emmanuel Ekpo are exploring opportunities in Europe, and Kevin Burns may not be offered a new contract.
Gaven said the deal is for two years “plus a few options.”
“It feels great. I love this team,” he said. “This is where I was able to win the MLS Cup.”
Coach Robert Warzycha said it was a priority to keep Gaven and a few others from the 2008 championship team as the club continues its makeover into a younger squad.
“He’s a very important part of the core guys we want to build around,” he said.
Gaven was third on the team with five goals and also had an assist in 2011 despite missing eight-straight games after suffering a leg injury on Aug. 5 in Colorado.
The Crew lost that match after he left the game in the 6th minute. They won their next two in his absence before embarking on the worst six-game spell in team history, during which they earned just one point.
Their slump ended Oct. 2 in the home finale after Gaven scored the game-winning goal against D.C. United in the 60th minute from a diving header.
“He showed how valuable he is to the team,” Warzycha said of Columbus’ MVP from 2010.
Gaven came to the Crew in a March 2006 trade with New York in exchange for Edson Buddle. He was the youngest player in MLS history when he was drafted by the MetroStars in 2003 at the age of 16.
He has 42 goals and 31 assists in 234 regular season games and two goals and an assist in 15 playoff matches, including the decisive goal in the 2008 Eastern Conference Championship against Chicago.
Along the way, Gaven has gained a following in Columbus for his personality as well as his beard, which picked up the nickname “Frank” this season.
The trademark look will probably get a trim, though, now that the season is over.
“I might have to shave before I go back home to see my mom around Thanksgiving,” the Hamilton, N.J., native said. “A shave and a hair cut will make her happy.”
But true to his humble nature, don’t expect Gaven to splurge now that he has a new contract.
“I’m still going to go to Great Clips, $9.99,” he said.