OBETZ, Ohio – Eddie Gaven is used to high expectations. That's part and parcel of playing 11 seasons as a pro, having won an MLS Cup and a pair of Supporters' Shields, and – now – being one of the cornerstones of a franchise in rebuilding mode.
Gaven had a career-best nine goals in 2012, bettering by one his mark set in 2005 back with the MetroStars, and is buoyed by the opportunity to spend an entire season playing with Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuaín. He's also welcoming of the expectations that come with his talented attacking running mates.
"We definitely were jelling at the end last year and it seems like we're picking up [in preseason] right where we left off," Gaven said. "It's very exciting for us to have a whole year together and see how many goals we can score."
For much of the season Robert Warzycha's side relied on Gaven to supply the offense from the midfield, a sure sign that the team was having trouble getting production up top. But Arrieta tied Gaven for the team lead with nine goals in only 18 matches and Higuaín added five goals and seven assists in 13 matches.
The result was that the indefatigable Gaven suddenly found room to roam the flanks.
"They give the other teams so much more to worry about and create space for the guys on the field like myself," he said. "It gave me a lot more looks at goal."
In turn, Gaven, who finished 10th in MLS in fouls suffered last season (61), is determined to get Higuaín in position for dangerous restarts.
"He's been throwing some awesome balls to goal" Gaven said. "It's definitely going to be big for us try and get some fouls around the box. With guys like Chad [Marshall], Josh [Williams] and Gláuber we're going to be very dangerous on set pieces."
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Taking a hard knock for the good of the team is as much a Gaven trademark as his stranded-on-an-island beard.
"He's consistent year in and year out, game in and game out," goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum enthused. "Every practice he goes out, shuts his mouth and goes about his business. He's a real good professional."
Gaven would prefer to let his play do the talking and as such it's no surprise that he doesn't predict how many goals might come his way this season.
"I'm not trying to put a set number on it," he said. "It's about working hard for the team and taking my chances when I can. I'm not going to worry about an X number of goals."