The summer between my sophomore and junior year of college, I sat across the aisle from Jeff Cunningham on a flight from Denver to Columbus. He was kind enough to chat with me all the way to the baggage claim; the guy was always fond of attention.

The summer between my sophomore and junior year of college, I sat across the aisle from Jeff Cunningham on a flight from Denver to Columbus. He was kind enough to chat with me all the way to the baggage claim; the guy was always fond of attention.

As a Crew fan since day one, I was pretty stoked, especially because by August 2004 Cunningham was already a Crew icon, a seven-year veteran whose resume included the rookie goals record in 1998, Crew Stadium's first goal in 1999 and an MLS Best XI selection in 2002. He was well on his way to tying Brian McBride's club-record 62 goals.

Unfortunately, Cunningham's tenure in Columbus wasn't all so pleasant, and not long after our airport encounter he was on a plane out of Columbus for good.

He was notorious for flubbing chances, being offside (his 374 career infractions are an MLS record) and having a bad attitude - bad enough that coach Greg Andrulis sent him packing after the 2004 season.

Despite racking up 43 assists with the Crew, Cunningham also had a reputation for playing selfish. Yet his last moment in a Crew jersey was defined by too much deference: He ceded a penalty kick to Tony Sanneh, whose pitiful roller was easily blocked, essentially ending the Crew's playoff run.

That would have been a tragic ending for Cunningham's Crew career. Thankfully, this season Cunningham returned to Columbus after suiting up for four teams in six years. He came back needing just one goal to wrest the Crew scoring record from McBride and pull even with Jaime Moreno's league record 133 tallies.

Cunningham returned older, wiser and, um, slower. He stays late after practice to help rookies find their groove, but on the pitch he seemed out of the groove himself, failing to score in the season's first 17 games.

That drought concluded last Wednesday, when Cunningham's 90th-minute header lifted Columbus to a 1-0 win in Vancouver. His joy and relief were palpable through the TV screen. (He appeared to be offside; what else is new?)

The Crew is honoring McBride at Saturday's match against San Jose, and rightfully so. The U.S. World Cup hero was the face of the franchise until Guillermo Barros Schelotto came along. Still, all eyes will be on Cunningham on Saturday - just the way he likes it.