Crew fans - and perhaps all of MLS - got spoiled by the wizardry of Guillermo Barros Schelotto during the 2008 season.
He totaled 19 assists in the regular season and added another six in the playoffs, including a record three in the team’s 3-1 win over New York in the MLS Cup.
Everyone had come to expect him to dominate a match, but as he has gotten older (37) and teams have changed tactics, his work now is maybe even more sublime.
Take Saturday’s 2-1 win over Chicago, when Schelotto failed to get on the scoring sheet but played major roles in the team’s two goals.
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On the first, he led Jason Garey into the box with crafty ball through a bevy of legs. Garey got the initial shot on goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, poked the rebound away and left the scraps for a trailing Adam Moffat to put away.
“I made a run,” Moffat said. “Jason had a good run. Guillermo spotted our runs. He put them under a lot of pressure.”
Said Garey: “I have a good relationship with Guillermo. If you make the run he’ll put the ball in there for you.”
Schelotto also linked with Eddie Gaven on the winner in the second minute of first-half stoppage time, when they played a give-and-go along the sideline. Schelotto threaded a pass between two defenders to spring Gaven, who dribbled into space and pinpointed a cross that Garey headed into the goal.
“That was a great run by Jason Garey to give Guillermo a chance to give the ball to him,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said of the first goal. “It’s not only Guillermo’s vision. Jason’s run created that pass. It was the same with Eddie Gaven’s. He made a great run and Guillermo gave him the ball.”
The Crew (8-2-3) are going to need more of that as the season progresses, with teams trying to stifle the attack before it gets going.
“Everybody’s behind the ball,” Warzycha said. “They’re dropping in their half and they’re playing with one forward. They are organizing a 4-5-1and trying to steal the ball in the middle of the field.”
Warzycha added that the Crew’s opponents in each of their last three matches – LA, D.C. United and now Chicago – have applied the same strategy.
“That’s what all three teams did against us, so it’s difficult to find the space,” Warzycha said.
GETTING THERE – Warzycha will never come out and say he’s satisfied with the team’s play until they win another MLS Cup. But he likes what he’s seen in two wins out of the World Cup break after going 0-2-1 into it.
“I’m happy with the overall performance,” he said. “This team has jelled and whoever we put on the field knows his role and tries to help the team. Tactically (Saturday) was one of our best games. The players were in the right places. There were the right combinations. We were very solid in the back.”
CREW CUT – Garey’s new military-looking haircut may have helped the ball take off when he scored with the head Saturday.
“That’s my tennis ball right there. Good traction on it,” he joked. “That’s what my wife calls it because I cut it myself. She wasn’t too happy.”
A REAL PROBLEM - The Crew prides themselves on owning the longest unbeaten streaks for overall (19 games), home (22) and road (9).
The home mark is currently in jeopardy, as Real Salt Lake’s run stands at 18. If RSL beat Chivas USA on July 24 and D.C. United on July 31 at Rio Tinto Stadium, it will be left to the Crew to defend their honor on Aug. 14 or RSL could match the regular-season mark Sept. 4 vs. New York.
AHEAD - The Crew hosts Charleston (USL-2) Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup then plays at Houston on Saturday.