The case for Gershon Koffie as the glue that holds this Vancouver Whitecaps team together grows stronger each time he's out of the lineup.
On their current four-game slide, the Caps have been without the young Ghanaian midfielder three times.
Against Dallas a month ago, the 2-0 home loss that started this poor run of form, Koffie was serving a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation.
He also missed the 2-1 loss in Port-land because the MLS disciplinary committee banned him for one game for what it deemed a dangerous play in injury time against Seattle. And he missed the most recent 2-0 loss in L.A. with a groin pull.
Discipline might not be Koffie's strong suit, but he plays with an edge that does far more good than harm.
And it's not just Koffie's toughness and determination that Vancouver has missed.
In his second MLS season, the 21-year-old has emerged as a strong two-way presence. He's expanded his passing game, harnessed his wild shot, improved his decision-making and shown off his dribbling ability. He's scored twice.
Crucially, he's been their pivot between defending and attacking, and his absence has coincided with a complete lack of creativity.
More importantly, he's been back training fully this week and appears ready to start in Dallas on Saturday as the Caps try to extend their lead for the final play-off spot to seven points.
"Gersh is a big player for us," said assistant coach Carl Robinson, a longtime defensive midfielder.
"We're fortunate enough to work with him day-in and day-out and his attributes are fantastic.
"I think he's been sorely missed for us the last few games. The way he wins balls.
The way he distributes balls. He brings a calmness to our play, and for someone at such a young age, that's a great thing to have."