Columbus Crew and New Zealand international midfielder Simon Elliott has moved to the English Premier League, as Fulham Football Club announced the signing of the 31-year-old on Friday. Elliott's move to Fulham will make him the third former Major League Soccer player on the London club's books and marks the second major departure from MLS since the end of the 2005 season.
"Signing for Fulham is an exciting move for me as I have always had an ambition to play in the Premiership," Elliott said on the club's official website.
Elliott spent seven years in MLS after beginning his professional career in the A-League (now USL First Division) with the Boston Bulldogs in 1999. But it didn't take the Stanford University product long to move to America's top flight, as he relocated to the Los Angeles Galaxy in time to make 23 appearances that season.
Four more campaigns with the Galaxy followed, including an MLS Cup championship in 2002. Elliott then moved to the Columbus Crew prior to the 2004 season and was one of the team's most consistent players over the next two seasons. He played every minute of the Crew's season in 2005, but couldn't help the side to a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs as they finished the season at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with 38 points.
"Simon's been a leader on this team for the two years he has been here," said Crew GM Mark McCullers. "He's earned this opportunity and we wish him well."
Elliott popped up on Fulham manager Chris Coleman's radar screen when the Cottagers traveled to Ohio to take on the MLS All-Star team last July. Prior to that match, which the All-Stars won by a 4-1 score, Fulham took on the Crew in a friendly, falling to the home side by a 2-1 score.
"I was made aware of Simon during the summer and watched him play against us for the Columbus Crew in a preseason friendly in Ohio," Coleman told the club's website. "I was very impressed with his positional play and intelligent reading of the game, and he will bring some strength and experience to our midfield. I know that he will be a dedicated professional and a great addition for us, and I'm confident that he can adapt to the physical demands of the Premiership, so I am pleased to welcome him to Fulham in this January window."
Elliott only played 45 minutes during that encounter, but it was enough to catch Coleman's eye. Elliott joined Fulham on a training stint following the end of the MLS season and was impressive enough to score a deal to stay in the Premiership.
Crew head coach Sigi Schmid, who coached Elliott during his time with the Galaxy, now has a big hole to fill in the heart of the Columbus midfield. However, with the international transfer window remaining open through March, Schmid will have an opportunity to restock before his new club kicks off the 2006 season in early April.
In addition to the possibility of adding foreign reinforcements, Schmid and the other MLS coaches will be given a chance to select new talent at the MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia on Jan. 20.
Fulham currently sit in 14th place in the 20-team Premier League, with 23 points from a 6-10-5 record. Another former Crew man, U.S. national team regular Brian McBride, is the leading scorer so far this season for Fulham with eight goals. Former Chicago Fire defender Carlos Bocanegra has also been a regular contributor for the Cottagers this season, having made 14 appearances, including 13 as a starter.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.