- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 18, 2007

Guillermo Barros Schelotto may well be the bargain of the year.

Unlike other big-named acquisitions by MLS clubs this year — England’s David Beckham to the Los Angeles Galaxy ($5.5 million a year), Mexico’s Cuauhtemoc Blanco to the Chicago Fire ($2.4 million) and Colombian star Juan Pablo Angel to the New York Red Bulls ($1.5 million) — Schelotto, who signed with the Columbus Crew for $150,000 a year in April, did not come to the league under the designated player rule.

All he has done since signing with the Crew (6-6-8, 26 points), which squares off against D.C. United (9-6-3, 30 points) tonight, is lead the team in both goals (four) and assists (eight) and help it move within striking distance of a playoff berth (Columbus currently holds the eighth and final spot). He also was named MLS Player of the Month for July after tallying three goals and an assist in four league games, helping Columbus to a 2-1-1 record in MLS games over that span.

Last year, the Crew were the worst club in MLS at 8-15-9.

Schelotto is little known outside of his country but is one of Argentina’s most colorful and famous players.

“He has that cunning so characteristic of Argentinean football,” writes Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona concerning Schelotto in his autobiography. “When everyone else gets nervous, he remains unfazed.”

Said United midfielder Josh Gros: “I didn’t know much about him until he came to MLS. It’s obvious he is a good passer.”

Schelotto played for Argentina’s most famous team, Boca Juniors, for 11 years, winning 15 titles with the team. Nicknamed “El Mellizo” (the twin) because he has a twin brother who also played at Boca, Schelotto scored 61 goals in 210 games for the club.

Columbus meets United following a 3-2 loss at FC Dallas in which it gave up a dramatic goal in the dying seconds of the game.

Meantime, United arrives in Columbus following impressive MLS wins over the New England Revolution and the Los Angeles Galaxy but needing to shake off a 2-0 loss to the Galaxy in the SuperLiga semifinals on Wednesday.

U-17 World Cup kicks off — Twenty-four teams, including the United States, will battle for the Under-17 World Cup title, which starts today in South Korea.

The Americans are drawn into a relatively easy group with Belgium, Tunisia and Tajikistan. The U.S. team faces Tajikistan in the southern city of Changwon on Monday. If it wins Group E, the U.S. team will play the runner-up in Group D, which includes France, Japan, Nigeria and Haiti. If the Americans come in second in their group, they possibly could face a tough draw against Germany or Ghana from Group F. The top two teams from the six groups and the best two third-place teams advance to the knockout round.

Mexico won the 2005 title in Peru, and Brazil won the 2003 event in Finland.

The Americans came in fifth in both in 2005 in 2003. The team’s best showing was a fourth-place finish in New Zealand in 1999, led by Landon Donovan (three goals), DaMarcus Beasley (one goal), Oguchi Onyewu (two goals) and Bobby Convey.

“Our first aim, of course, is to progress through the group stages,” coach John Hackworth said on the FIFA Web site. “Once we achieve that, we know that anything is possible.”

The United States is the only country to have qualified for all 12 U-17 World Cups. The U-17 games are being shown on ESPN2, ESPNU and Galavison.

Note — Former D.C. United defender Tony Sanneh (1996-98) signed with the Colorado Rapids and helped his new team beat the New England Revolution 3-0 on Wednesday.

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