Crew undecided if Schelotto will play on Seattle turf

Argentine maestro has been held off artificial pitches before

All Crew coach Robert Warzycha says he’s trying to do is keep his almost 37-year-old star healthy for as much of the season as possible.

That’s his main consideration as he contemplates Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s involvement in Saturday’s match at Seattle Sounders FC on artificial turf.

“I haven’t decided yet,” the coach said. Warzycha was not at Tuesday’s practice for personal reasons but later spoke by phone to MLSSoccer.com. “I’ll talk to him and see what happens this week and see how he feels and how he recovered from the last game.”

Warzycha has protected Schelotto in the past when it comes to taking a pounding on the fake grass, but in this case, it seems to be a no-brainer to play the Crew’s leading scorer. The Crew (2-0-1) have played only three matches in five weeks so fatigue will not be a factor going into the game at Qwest Field. However, Warzycha is looking down the road.

“We have to find a way to make sure he doesn’t get hurt in the middle of the season so he can play all season,” Warzycha said.

Schelotto, who turns 37 on May 4, said he feels good after last Saturday’s match against Real Salt Lake, in which his penalty kick was the difference in the 1-0 victory. He has three of the Crew’s five goals.

The Argentine maestro is off to another hot start after scoring 10 times in the first 13 matches last season. Schelotto slowed down after that due in part to missing four games beginning in mid-July because of a hamstring strain. The same injury caused him to miss three games in September 2008.

“I haven’t talked to Bobby yet,” Schelotto said after training on Tuesday. “I don’t know what he is thinking but I want to play. We only play three games. Other teams have played four, five, six games. It’s important for the best people to play but the coach may think it’s better not to play. He’s the boss.”

With Toronto’s switch to grass and New York’s move from Giants Stadium to Red Bull Arena, the Crew’s only other match on the turf is with the new carpet at New England’s Gillette Stadium on Sept. 25.

“I’m very happy about this,” Schelotto said. “It’s a good idea everyone is changing the turf for grass because soccer is supposed to be in the grass.”

One reason Warzycha is considering limiting or not using Schelotto is the team’s stellar record without him. The Crew went 3-0 and outscored opponents 5-2 when Schelotto sat in 2008. Last season, they were 6-0 and held a 15-5 goal advantage when he didn't play and were 1-1-1 (3-2 in goals) when he was used in a reserve role.

Of course, those numbers went out the window when Warzycha made Schelotto a healthy scratch in the first leg of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.

His thinking was that with a Saturday-Thursday schedule, resting Schelotto at RSL and hopefully getting at least a draw there would give the Crew an advantage for their home game. The theory worked great until Robbie Findley’s goal in the 88th minute gave RSL the win. Schelotto scored twice in the rematch but the Crew still lost 3-2 to end their MLS Cup title-defending season.