CARSON, Calif. – Among the extraordinary players in Columbus Crew SC lore, none stand taller than Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
The Argentine midfielder spearheaded the club's greatest achievements – back-to-back Supporters' Shields and an MLS Cup championship – during a four-year stint that closed nine seasons ago. Unsurprisingly, he remains a fan favorite in Columbus.
Schelotto is back in Ohio's capital this week for the first time since returning this season to Major League Soccer as he guides the LA Galaxy in Wednesday evening's showdown with the Crew at his old stamping grounds, now called MAPFRE Stadium (7:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info).
“I feel good [about returning],” he said before departing Southern California last week for a two-game Eastern Conference swing that started with Saturday’s 3-2 loss at the New York Red Bulls. “I miss the town, some friends, and the new owner, Dr. [Pete] Edwards. I know a lot of people [in Columbus], and I feel good to come back.”
HIGHLIGHTS: Columbus Crew vs. NY Red Bulls | MLS Cup 2008
He can expect a warm reception. There have been some astounding figures to wear the Black & Gold – Brian McBride, Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall, Jeff Cunningham and current leader Federico Higuain among them – but none so celebrated as Schelotto.
Sigi Schmid brought Schelotto to the Crew in 2007, giving him his MLS debut the day after his 34th birthday, and he was an MLS Best XI selection that year despite the club's failure to reach the postseason. He was phenomenal the following season, scoring seven goals with a league-best 19 assists, plus another half-dozen in the playoffs, to lead Columbus to a 17-7-6 record and the Supporters' Shield/MLS Cup double.
He was the league's MVP and then claimed the MLS Cup's MVP honor after assisting all three goals in the Crew's 3-1 triumph over the Red Bulls inside the Galaxy's home stadium, now called Dignity Health Sports Park but known as Home Depot Center at the time.
“The best memory [from the Crew days] is when we won the championship here at Home Depot Center,” Schelotto said. “And we come back to the city, and a lot of people were in the mayor's house [for a celebration]. I have really good memories.”
MLS highlights - Guillermo Barros Schelotto
Schelotto, a Boca Juniors legend, played two more years for the Crew, leading them to another Shield in 2009 under Robert Warzycha – after Schmid left to become the Seattle Sounders' first MLS head coach – and a second-place finish in the East in 2010, when he was 37. Columbus were upset in the conference semifinals both years.
Schelotto scored 33 goals with 41 assists in 102 MLS regular-season games and 38 goals with 48 assists in all matches.
After missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, the Galaxy announced his appointment as head coach on Jan. 2, and he has LA (7-2-1 after the loss to the Red Bulls) off to their best start in years.