While the Columbus Crew have battled injuries and inconsistency throughout the season, Simon Elliott has been a pillar of strength for the team.
With a different arrangement of players around him every game, the New Zealand international has provided solid play for his squad in the middle of the pitch. Only he and Chad Marshall have played every minute of every game thus far.
At the beginning of the season, he was playing as a defensive midfielder while being paired with Kyle Martino and Danny Szetela. When Chris Wingert returned from an injury, Elliot took on more playmaking responsibilities. However, an ankle injury to Robin Fraser moved Wingert primarily to the back for the last two games and Elliott shifted back to the defensive midfielder after only one game with the more attacking role.
In Fraser's place, Elliott has been wearing the captain's armband. A leader of the team ever since he arrived from the Los Angeles Galaxy before last season, the captaincy does not change his attitude on the field.
The Crew are winless in their two matches during Fraser's absence. However, the losing streak goes longer than that: the Crew have no points in their last four matches. Although Elliott is not happy with the current slide, he does not think it is cause for too much concern just yet.
"You need to take winning and losing with a grain of salt. No one likes losing, especially four in a row," said Elliott. "If you keep your head on straight, work hard, and get the little things on the field right, it is pretty easy to get things turned around."
There are certainly memories of a season ago when the Crew were winless for their first five games, only to set off on an MLS-record unbeaten streak to win the Eastern Conference regular-seaosn crown. For the time being, Elliot thinks the Crew should focus on playing harder and the results should fall into place.
"Losing makes you want to work harder. Winning is a result of doing the right things," said Elliott. "We haven't been doing the right things and we have been getting punished for it."
In the midst of the four-match losing streak, the Crew have not only lost their two matches at home, but they have not scored a goal in either. Elliott understands that the fans have not been too pleased with the product on the field.
"The fans have a right to show their displeasure. They have paid their hard-earned money," said Elliott. "It is our job to get things right on the field."
Busy midweek: Even though the Crew did not have game on Wednesday, it was a still a very busy night for the club. Szetela played the final 22 minutes in the U.S.'s U-20 2-1 win against Canada in Blaine, Minn. Eddie Gaven of the Metrostars and Freddy Adu of D.C. United scored to overcome an early Canadian goal by the Chicago Fire's Will Johnson. Meanwhile, Cornell Glen was in Trinidad & Tobago for their 1-0 loss to Peruvian club team Alianza Lima in a friendly match.
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.