I give out a couple of awards every year. The US Golden Boot, the CONCACAF Player of the Year award - but perhaps none is more prestigious than the T.S. Eliot Trophy. Congratulations to the Columbus Crew, your 2008 Champions of April.
Previous winners (eventual fates in parentheses):
2007: New York Red Bulls (nothin', hobbled off in the first round along with Angel)
2006: Kansas City Wizards (at least they made the playoffs - oh, wait)
2005: New England Revolution (nothin', but at least they went to MLS Cup)
2004: Los Angeles Galaxy (nothin')
2003: Tie between San Jose (MLS Cup) and Columbus (per correction pointed out below, missed playoffs entirely)
2002: Three way tie between San Jose, Colorado, and the Metrostars (nothin' all around) (includes March) (in other words, I didn't feel like looking up goal differential for these years)
2001: Miami Fusion (won Shield)
2000: Kansas City Wizards (won Shield and MLS Cup) (includes March)
1999: Chicago Fire (won Open Cup) (includes March)
1998: Los Angeles Galaxy (Shield, didn't enter Open Cup) (includes March)
1997: DC United (Shield and MLS Cup) (includes March)
1996: Los Angeles Galaxy (nothin' - went to MLS Cup, didn’t enter Open Cup)
Since the turn of the millennium, the reward for being an early bird is pretty much the early worm. The last time any April shower ended up winning anything was before the Howard Dean scream. However, this is the first time since the Clinton Administration that the season started in March - even if just for a week - and, as you can tell, when this award includes March, chances for success go way, way up.
The Crew's actual prospects? Beats the snot out of me. I picked them to miss the playoffs, and come on, it wasn't THAT stupid a pick. Like any of you thought the lead story in MLSnet was ever going to be the story of the exciting, thrilling Crew, with a picture of Sigi Schmid.
If Columbus was in the West, instead of trying to reach the East by sailing west (JESUS, I'm funny), then we'd be preparing to hand them the Supporters Shield, instead of the Chaucer Cup. Schelotto's been the second most dangerous player in the league so far this season, but only two out of the top ten most dangerous players in the league so far are in the West. Okay, maybe three. (Kljestan and Cooper, if you were curious.) And I'm not even counting guys like Taylor Twellman, who I'm thinking is going to come back red-hot, and Juan Pablo Angel, who'd better come back red-hot for New York's sake.
They're at least in better shape than recent April heroes - the 2006 Wizards were one of the most mysterious collapses in league history, and the Red Bulls last year had to add the best player in the history of the franchise just to end up finishing fourth. I don't think the Crew are THAT big a mirage.
Sure, the Crew are much better than I thought they were (like they care about my validation at this point), but they're still in the East, and I wouldn't be surprised to see first and seventh separated by only a few more points than they are today.
Congratulations also to Coach Schmid on his 100th career MLS victory. His all-time record now stands at 100-275-298, every single game either a 1-0 result or a 0-0 tie.