Three members of the Columbus Crew will join their Eastern Conference compatriots in this weekend for the 2004 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game.
Midfielder/defender Frankie Hejduk, defender Robin Fraser and goalkeeper Jon Busch will head to the nation's capital to take part in the All-Star Game on Saturday at RFK Stadium.
Fraser brings the most experience to the All-Star scene having played in four previous editions. However, it will be his first All-Star Game as a member of the Crew, having last appeared while representing the L.A. Galaxy during the 2000 season. At 37-years-old Fraser is among the eldest participants this season and one of only two players to get the nod in 2004 as well as during the league's inaugural season in 1996. San Jose's Jeff Agoos is the other. Fraser has started and played in 16 or the Crew's 17 games so far this season and his defensive skills and leadership abilities have won him the captain's armband.
The other Columbus All-Star with prior experience is Hejduk. He returns for his second consecutive All-Star Game (third overall) after coming back from the German Bundesliga. Hejduk's stellar work rate and quickness make him a tough assignment for any defender in MLS, while his own pesky marking seems to bother opposing attackers like a mosquito. During his time in MLS and abroad Hejduk has proven himself to be one of America's top wide players, hence his inclusion on two FIFA World Cup rosters.
Busch is a newcomer as far as All-Star Games go, but he has been one of the top goalkeepers in MLS since leaving the A-League behind in 2002. He finished the 2003 campaign with an impressive 1.09 goals-against average, and he currently boasts an even better 1.06 mark through 17 games in 2004. Busch's six shutouts are second-best in MLS.
Fraser, Hejduk and Busch certainly live up to the billing as "All-Stars." Without each of their important contributions to the Crew, Columbus likely would not be in second place in the conference with 24 points. And with two games in hand on the first-place MetroStars (29 points), the Crew could potentially go from worst to first after missing the playoffs in 2003. Were it not for the contributions of their three All-Stars, Columbus might still be in the basement.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor for MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.