First-round pick Dilly Duka, selected eighth overall in Major League Soccer's SuperDraft, has mostly languished on the Columbus Crew bench this season. Fellow first-rounder Bright Dike, selected twelfth overall, didn't even make the squad.

First-round pick Dilly Duka, selected eighth overall in Major League Soccer's SuperDraft, has mostly languished on the Columbus Crew bench this season. Fellow first-rounder Bright Dike, selected twelfth overall, didn't even make the squad.

Lowly fourth-round pick Shaun Francis, on the other hand, has become a staple of the starting lineup after taking over the left back position for injured veteran Gino Padula.

"All season he was developing and playing better and better, so when Gino got injured there was no question for me who was going to replace him," coach Robert Warzycha said.

Francis, a Mandeville, Jamaica, native out of tiny Lindsey Wilson College, has been the only rookie to make an impact for Columbus this season. He got his chance because a hole opened up at his position, but he's kept it through hard work, humility and a willingness to learn.

Also: He's fast. In Francis' first MLS appearance July 17, he outran New York speedster Dane Richards for a 50-50 ball.

Things haven't been all rosy since then. Particularly gruesome was a pair of mistakes that led to two Chivas U.S.A. goals en route to a 3-1 loss July 31 in Los Angeles. Warzycha publicly criticized Francis in the aftermath, but he kept the young defender in the starting lineup.

"Everybody here has given me a lot of support," Francis said. "It's not like anyone has come down on me because they know I'm a rookie. I'm not the first one who's going to make these mistakes, and I'm not the last one."

Though he misses his island home, Francis is relishing his shot with the championship-caliber Crew. He isn't planning to let his foot off the gas soon, even in the face of exhaustion due to multiple matches per week.

"It's all about working hard in practice," Francis said. "You just have to keep working. Your spot is never secured on a team like this."