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Columbus Crew SC Announces Annual Team Award Winners After 2020 MLS Cup Championship Season

December 18, 2020 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Columbus Crew SC News Release

COLUMBUS - Columbus Crew SC today announced its annual team awards after the Club secured its second MLS Cup title in the League's 25-year history following a 3-0 victory at MAPFRE Stadium on December 12. The Club's annual honors include Most Valuable Player, Golden Boot Winner, Defender of the Year, Kirk Urso Heart Award, OhioHealth Humanitarian of the Year and Crew SC Academy Player of the Year.

MEDIA ASSETS: Graphics of Crew SC's 2020 Team Award winners available for media use: (Please provide courtesy to Columbus Crew SC)


Signed as a Designated Player for a Club-record transfer fee almost one year ago to the day, on December 19, 2019, Zelarayan made an immediate impact on the team. The midfielder scored the game-winning goal in his regular-season debut as Crew SC defeated New York City FC 1-0 (March 1). In the regular season, Zelarayan scored six goals and provided four assists for the Crew despite making just 16 appearances (12 starts) after missing part of the 2020 season due to injuries. Notably, of his 10 combined goals and assists in regular-season action, half of them were either the game-winning goal (three) or the game-winning assist (two). In Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs action, Zelarayan scored two goals and provided five assists, including three game-winning helpers and the game-winning goal in MLS Cup 2020. For his efforts, the Argentine was named the MLS Cup 2020 Most Valuable Player as well as the 2020 MLS Newcomer of the Year.


Forward Gyasi Zardes claims his third consecutive Crew SC Golden Boot award after scoring a team-leading 12 goals in regular-season action in 2020. Zardes' 12 tallies placed him in second place in the MLS Golden Boot race, just behind LAFC's Diego Rossi (14 goals). The forward's 12 goals brought his total to 44 goals in regular-season action since joining Crew SC ahead of the 2018 season, which ties him with Stern John for fourth place on the Black & Gold list of all-time regular-season goal scorers. In addition to his scoring output, Zardes was tied with Lucas Zelarayan and Artur for providing the second-most assists (four) for the Crew in regular-season action. Following the regular season, Zardes scored two goals in Audi MLS Cup Playoffs matches during the Crew's push for its second MLS Cup title. The forward is the only player in Crew SC history to win the Golden Boot award on three occasions (2018-2020).


Jonathan Mensah played every single minute of every match (including the MLS is Back Tournament Knockout Stage match and all four postseason matches), making 28 appearances (all starts) across all competitions in 2020. Mensah provided a stabilizing presence for a Crew SC backline in his first season as team captain. Mensah led the League in blocks (30), passes (1,473) and clearances (114) in regular-season action. The defender also helped the Crew post nine shutouts in regular-season action - tied for most by an MLS team this season - as well as three shutouts in a row in postseason action to close out the championship run and win MLS Cup 2020. Mensah was named to MLS' Best XI lineup for 2020 and was also named as a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year. The Ghanaian is one of only two players to win the Club's award three years in a row (2018-2020), a record shared with Chad Marshall (2008-2010).


Darlington Nagbe is the seventh player to receive this award after Kirk Urso was posthumously honored in the inaugural year of the special recognition in 2012. Selected by players on Crew SC's Leadership Counsel, Nagbe was chosen as the player that best exemplified the qualities in a teammate and became "the heart" in the Black & Gold locker room this season. This year, Nagbe made 18 appearances (17 starts) across all competitions for Crew SC, scoring two goals and providing one assist.


This year's Humanitarian of the Year Award is being awarded to the Black Players for Change (BPC), with midfielder Darlington Nagbe and forward Gyasi Zardes accepting the award on behalf of the organization. Consisting of more than 170 players, coaches and staff of Major League Soccer, BPC is an organization working to bridge the racial equality gap as well as promote change and social justice. The organization, announced on Juneteenth, 2020, strives to advance the attention on human rights inequalities from protest to programs, partnerships and policies that address systemic racism. This year, BPC partnered with several groups to lead the charge on civic engagement in this year's elections. In partnership with Major League Soccer and Major League Soccer Players Association, BPC launched a league-wide, non-partisan initiative to drive voter registration for players, greats, club and league personnel, and fans. Both Zardes and Nagbe participated in the drive to encourage voter registration and helped the Club reach its goal of 100 percent voter registration for those eligible to vote in the 2020 election cycle.


In recognition of his bright future and his contributions to the Black & Gold's Under-18/19 Academy team, TJ Presthus has been named the Crew SC Academy Player of the Year. The 17-year-old defender, has competed for Crew SC Academy since 2016 and recently completed the fall 2020 MLS NEXT season with seven appearances (all starts) for the Under-18/19 squad, netting one goal while having played the most minutes out of any player on the team. During the 2019-2020 campaign, Presthus featured in all U-17 Generation adidas Cup matches for Crew SC scoring two goals.

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