Top 50 MLS Cup Moments: #24 Heart of a Champ
|Columbus 3||New York 1|
|Did You Know?|
|Guillermo Barros Schelotto is nicknamed "El Mellizo," or "the twin." His twin brother, Gustavo, also played professionally alongside GBS at Argentine giants Boca Juniors.|
#24. Heart of a Champ (2008)
The nice thing about recognizing the regular season champion with the Supporters’ Shield and the postseason champion with the MLS Cup is that we get to vet the truly great teams. If you want to go down in MLS history as one of the all-time bests, you’ve got to win both.
The last team to do that double are the 2008 Columbus Crew. And that particular MLS Cup final – against a New York Red Bulls team that was better than their regular season record indicated – was a microcosm of what made the Crew so special.
Long story short: Get the ball to Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Make your run. He will find you.
Schelotto stole the show on that November day, setting up all three goals in the Crew’s 3-1 win. It was a tour de force from one of the league’s great playmakers, and for then-Columbus head coach Sigi Schmid, it was what they’d come to expect from the little Argentine.
“Guillermo was unique as a player – he was such a winner,” Schmid explained. “I’ve never coached a player at the professional level who, when it came time to walk on the field, it was a completely different persona. He took such pride in winning championships. You felt that defined him as a player."
Schelotto had come to Columbus the season before after a long and storied career with Boca Juniors, Argentina’s most famous club. In his decade there, he’d won a record 16 titles across all competitions.
“[I rank winning the MLS Cup] with all the rest,” Schelotto said of his trophy collection. “The pressure or responsibility one puts on himself is more than how significant you are. For me, that final is like all the ones before it. I took on the same responsibility as always and enjoyed it and I enjoyed winning [that final] as much as all the others.”
Through the first 30 minutes, however, the Crew fans who made the trip to the Home Depot Center that day weren’t enjoying things very much. The Red Bulls struggled throughout the 2008 regular season thanks to the relentless tinkering of coach Juan Carlos Osorio, and only backed into the playoffs on the last day.
But once the postseason arrived, the tinkering stopped and New York plowed through Houston, then beat Real Salt Lake in Utah.
They were still the underdogs, but once the whistle blew, they didn’t play like it.
“They actually controlled the ball and had better chances than us to start the game,” recalled former Crew forward Alejandro Moreno. “They weren’t scared; they came at us and put us under some pressure. But we knew the kind of team we were, what we were capable of doing, and that a chance would come.”
The patience paid off in the 31st minute. Schelotto caused a turnover at midfield, then quickly played the ball into space for Moreno down the right flank. The Venezuelan international finished coolly to the back post.
New York fought back early in the second half, getting a goal through hometown hero John Wolyniec in the 50th minute, but then Schelotto took over. Just a minute after Wolyniec made it 1-1, the playmaker put a corner kick right onto Chad Marshall’s head for a 2-1 lead that finally took the starch out of the Red Bulls.
“I remember Chad Marshall’s goal,” Schelotto said. “It came right after New York had tied us and it gave us an important boost in the second half to beat them, because they had been dominating the match. They scored on a play right at the beginning of the second half and I had the luck of helping make the difference. From that point on, we took control of the game.”
That they did, pinning NYRB back and, eventually, turning on the style. The exclamation point was Schelotto’s third assist, a delicate chip to the onrushing Frankie Hejduk in the 82nd minute.
It sealed the deal on a complete team performance – one that was inspired by Schelotto.
“We knew if we worked hard, me and Eddie Gaven, Robbie Rogers, then he would find us,” said Moreno of the team’s approach. “He is a great player, but it is up to all of us to help make him great.”
That ethos was something appreciated by the whole team, including the man who would walk away with the MVP.
“I think that our performance as a team fueled each player,” Schelotto said. “I think we deserved to be champions that year.”