PASADENA, Calif. — Guillermo Barros Schelotto sees how Major League Soccer has evolved since his four-season stint with Columbus Crew SC between 2007 and 2010, how it's become a steppingstone to Europe for young South Americans, and how an influx of foreign coaches has led to greater tactical sophistication.
It's been a joy to see, and the Boca Juniors manager would readily guide an MLS team. Just not yet.
“I would love to coach in MLS in the future,” Schelotto, 45, said in an impromptu session with media at halftime of Monday's Mexico-Wales game at the Rose Bowl. “I don't know when, because I'm happy at Boca. It's a big challenge for me. But in the future, yes, I would like to coach in MLS.”
Schelotto, a creative midfielder who led the Crew SC to an MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield double in 2008 (while winning the league's MVP), and another Shield in 2009, has guided Boca Juniors — where he spent most of his playing career — to the last two Argentinian Primera Division titles. He was vacationing in Southern California and decided to take in Monday's match because “I like the Mexican national team.”
Mexico and Wales played to a scoreless draw in front of 82,345 spectators.
Schelotto remarked that MLS is now “very different” from the league in which he played four years. He feels it's grown substantially since he last played in the league eight years ago. In particular, he believes that an influx of top young talent, especially from South America, and foreign coaches has made a huge impact.
“When I played [in MLS], we all played the same. Everybody played the same,” he said. “The majority were four defenders, four in the middle and the two strikers. When I came to the end of my four years here, I was noticing some changes. And now you have Toronto [FC] playing with three defenders and [Sporting] Kansas City playing with three forwards."
“You see things you didn't see before, and the new tactics and these kinds of things make MLS evolve and the players evolve and the teams evolve.”
The perception of and respect for MLS have grown in South America, he said, and that's made the league a destination en route to Europe's big leagues.
“Before, players would think of coming here at the last stage of their careers, but now I think most of them see it as a good step to head to Europe,” he said. “I would recommend MLS [if one of my young players asked about it]. I mean, in Atlanta, you have [Hector] Villalba, [Ezequiel] Barco [and Miguel] Almiron. They're all young players that could have possibly waited [a few years in South America before going] to Europe, but instead they came here. They think this is a step forward in their careers.”
He likes how the New York Red Bulls and Sporting KC play under Jesse Marsch and Peter Vermes respectively, and thinks MLS is due to win a CONCACAF Champions League crown—especially after TFC nearly did so earlier this year.
“I think a good step is when an MLS team wins the CONCACAF Champions [League],” Schelotto said, noting it can build on successes the US men's national team had in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"I think that those very important international tournaments need to be won in order for U.S. Soccer to grow.”
He said he's hoping Mexico could have a decent run in Russia -- and that harsh criticism of El Tri manager Juan Carlos Osorio is “unjust, because he's qualified the team to the World Cup, and they had no troubles qualifying."
But he also thinks this could finally be Argentina's year.
“They have a very good team,” he said. “They have a coach [in Jorge Sampaoli] with experience, who with Chile did very well [in winning the Copa America Centenario]. And they have [Lionel] Messi. They have something that's more, compared to other teams. They have Messi. I want to see Argentina reach the final, and I hope [Messi will finally win his World Cup].”