The trip from Dayton to Columbus takes only a little more than an hour -- when taking the direct route. But Columbus Crew defender Mark Schulte has taken anything but the direct route.
After graduating from the University of Dayton in 1999, Schulte went from a part-time starter to a second team all-league selection in just three seasons with the Minnesota Thunder. Following one more season in Minnesota, Schulte decided to give Europe a try and signed with Iceland first division outfit IBV Vestmannaeyjar.
Despite starting every match for the Icelandic club, Schulte decided to come back to the U.S. and sign with the Columbus Crew. Although Schulte has played in more than a third of the Crew's matches this season, he has largely been filling in for players injured, suspended, or called to a national team. Until recently, that is.
"As long as he continues to perform well, he has the job," said interim Crew coach Robert Warzycha.
With Chris Wingert suspended against FC Dallas, Robin Fraser slid back into his customary central position and Schulte again filled the void as an outside back.
"He was a little bit nervous in the beginning of the game against Dallas," said Warzycha. "After 25 minutes, I think he took a deep breath and from that point everything was OK."
The solid performance allowed the Ohio native to remain in the starting 11 for the victory against Kansas City.
"I think the second game was much better than the first one," said Warzycha. "He is a good defender and a good player. He helped us a lot in getting these two shutouts."
The shutouts are vital to the Crew as all eight of their wins on the campaign have come via blankings.
"Everyone is committed to the same goal, ideally getting a shutout," said Schulte. "We have great attacking players doing pretty dangerous things so we are pretty confident that we are going to get one (goal)."
Schulte also thanks 'keeper Jonny Walker for helping out the defenders.
"He's made some great saves. In our last home game, he was making unbelievable saves," said Schulte. "He's just been outstanding."
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.