In his fourth season with the Columbus Crew, Duncan Oughton has found a steady place in the starting lineup. But his position on the field has been anything but constant.
The New Zealand international has started the last 15 games for the Crew. Of course, the Crew are simultaneously on a 15-game unbeaten streak.
"We are on a roll. Everyone is having a good time and battling for each other," Oughton said. "No matter what the role is, as long as we are winning and things are going well, everyone is happy around here. There are a lot of smiles around training."
During the overlapping streaks, Oughton scored his first career MLS goal on August 21 against D.C. United and drew a penalty kick in their match last weekend against the Chicago Fire.
"I have been playing the midfield role where I can get forward more. It has been fun -- it has been interesting. It is great playing with Ross (Paule) and Simon (Elliot)," said Oughton. "They work so hard and compliment each other and certainly compliment me and make me look good."
He has also covered both wingback positions on the flanks in Greg Andrulis's 3-5-2, and along multiple roles in the midfield, he's also played in the back three, depending on injuries and national team duty. With Frankie Hejduk away on national team duty for the back end of the home-and-home series against the Fire, Oughton is expected to again return to the right flank.
"I am obviously still getting shifted around a little bit, but wherever I can help out the team," said Oughton.
Before this year, Oughton had appeared in about two-thirds of the Crew's matches (starting more than half) in his first three professional seasons. However, he has participated in all but two games this campaign (missing only while with the New Zealand for World Cup qualifying earlier this summer), while starting 19.
"In the previous three years, I have started about 60 percent of all the games, but this year, the last 15 games in a row, I have played pretty much every minute," he said.
While most people would like to settle down in a permanent position, Oughton seems happy taking on the rigors on the utility man as long as it keeps him on the pitch: "I just love to play. I'll try my best wherever I am at. Wherever it is, I'll be giving it 100 (percent)."
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.