For 10 years now, Eddie Gaven has quietly become one of Major League Soccer's most consistent performers. 2012 has been arguably Gaven's best season yet, tying his career-high set in 2005 of eight goals to lead the Crew in scoring.
The humble Gaven credits his success this season with the talent that surrounds him.
"I don't think much [has been different this season]," the veteran explained. "The team has been playing well. Anytime the team plays well, it's going to create some goal scoring opportunities for the guys up top. It's not just me. We've seen Jairo [Arrieta] get on the scoresheet, Pipa [Federico Higuaín], Justin Meram-- goals are coming from everywhere."
"Eddie always works his tail off and does his business on both sides of the ball. I think it's just a matter of confidence," Assistant Coach Mike Lapper added.
"When you have confidence, I think that goes miles," Lapper continued. "That's not just for Eddie, that goes for any player. When a player has that quiet confidence and knows that he has the support of the coaching staff and his teammates, I think you see the best out of that player. Eddie feels comfortable with the guys around him, as he has in years past, but I think [confidence] is the main thing."
But it's much more than goals that Gaven has supplied to the Black & Gold. Though it cannot be quanitifed, the midfielder's tireless work-rate has been a key asset to the Crew's success this season. As the Columbus "Iron Man" Gaven is the only midfielder in MLS to log over 2800 minutes so far in 2012. In July, Gaven became the youngest player in League history to play 250 matches by over three-and-a-half years.
"A lot of the stuff Eddie does is not on the stat sheet," Lapper said. "Game-in, game-out, year-in, year-out: it's the little things that Eddie does that make him so invaluable.You forget that he's still 25 years old, he's still young. But the thing that always amazes me about Eddie is that he's so explosive. He can break away from people, and he doesn't look like he's running that hard. But he's fast, he really is fast. That deception helps him get past people."
Despite the success, Gaven has been overlooked in the U.S. National Team picture yet again ahead of two crucial 2014 World Cup Qualifiers. The midfielder has earned eight caps with the Stars and Stripes, his last coming on November 17, 2010 in a 1-0 win in South Africa. At just 25, Gaven remains a viable option in Jürgen Klinsmann's midfield.
"I think the work [Gaven] does gets overshadowed by someone who bangs home more goals or gets more assists," Lapper said of Gaven's National Team prospects. "Eddie means so much more to this team than goals or assists. For someone who puts up better numbers, you could make a [National Team] argument for. But what Eddie does is intangible."
Having played 43 games for the United States, Lapper says playing for the National Team requires another level of drive.
"For any player who strives to be in the National Team pool, it takes an extra level of dedication. If Eddie wants to put [the work] in, he can have it," the assistant coach said.
"You have to have that burning desire," Lapper continued. "Eddie shows glimpses of it, but I don't know if he has that's where his heart is at. If you have that deep desire-- and maybe Eddie does, only he knows that-- If you have that deep desire, you can attain it."
Though he hasn't represented his country in two years, Gaven remains hopeful he can don the Stars & Stripes in the future.
"I've had the chance to play for the US several times," the veteran said. "I feel very blessed to have been able to do that. Obviously, it's a goal that I'd like to [play for the National Team] more. I'm not going to worry about it though. I'm focused on helping [the Crew] play well and see what happens from there."