After the Columbus Crew missed the playoffs last season, they decided to make some significant changes in player personnel. While the SuperDraft provided young talents such as Chad Marshall and Chris Wingert, a heavy veteran presence also came in the form of Simon Elliott, Manny Lagos and Robin Fraser.
Although Columbus eventually won the Supporters Shield and ended the regular season with an MLS-record 18-match unbeaten streak, it took some time for the personnel moves to gel.The Crew did not post a win until the sixth game of the season and lost their first three matches. However, Columbus only lost two games after the first month of the season.
"There are always questions when new players are coming together. We took a while to sort ourselves out," said Fraser. "Once we found a way that was best for us to play, we started getting some good results."
Crew captain Fraser credits coach Greg Andrulis for developing such an upbeat environment for the team.
"There is such a positive atmosphere around this team. That is one of the biggest strengths of this team. Coach has done a great job creating a very positive atmosphere and the guys really form a team," said Fraser. "These guys work hard for each other and because of that we have gotten where we are."
The 37-year-old played led the team in minutes, playing 28 matches. He missed only the game against New England on May 15 after receiving a red card deep into added time of the previous game at D.C. United and the second-to-last game of the season when the Crew fielded a largely reserve side after clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
In addition to Marshall and Wingert, the Crew added a third prized rookie, Danny Szetela, midway through the season. As captain, Fraser tries to lead by example and sees nothing but success in their futures.
"In the right environment, they are going to strive. I think this has been a great environment for all three of them," said Fraser. "They are all wonderful players and have bright futures in front of them."
The Crew acquired Fraser from the Colorado Rapids during the offseason. By strange coincidence, the Crew clinched the Supporters Shield on his former team's home turf. Fraser was proud to win the trophy awarded to the best team during the regular season, but did not get any extra satisfaction from the location of the match.
"At the end of the day, it was great to clinch the Supporters Shield. Because it was in Colorado doesn't make any difference. That is water under the bridge," said Fraser.
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.