Commentary: Schelotto must start round two

Warzycha can't afford to bench star player in return leg vs. COL

Crew standout Guillermo Barros Schelotto will start the second game of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Colorado on Nov. 6 in Crew Stadium. There’s no question about that.

But Schelotto’s and forward partner Steven Lenhart’s bringing off in the 68th minute of a 1-0 loss at Colorado on Thursday will still raise plenty of questions.

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The move harkened to coach Robert Warzycha’s benching of the Argentine star for game one of the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals at Real Salt Lake, a match the Crew also lost 1-0.

Warzycha was looking for a spark against the Rapids, and got it off the bench from forwards Jason Garey and Andres Mendoza.

Yet Schelotto must start against Colorado for two reasons: He is still the best player on the team, and Warzycha’s decision last year in the RSL series is coming back to haunt him.

Anyone watching last Sunday’s regular-season finale against Philadelphia saw a lively and forceful Schelotto play both ends of the field and factor in all three Crew goals.

So maybe it was the altitude in Colorado, the fact that it was his second match in four days, or perhaps the smothering Rapids’ defense that led to his lackluster performance there.

No matter the reasons, Warzycha really has no choice but to start Schelotto because he used his “get out of jail” card in the RSL series a year ago.

Critics cut him a bit of slack for being a rookie coach, but there’s little margin for error now and, frankly, until he wins a title, he has little credibility among Crew fan still smarting over the way 2009 ended.

There’s no way Warzycha can risk losing another series while his star sits. But why start Schelotto?

He will have had more than week of rest for his 37-year-old body and continues to be one of the best in the league on restarts.

And don’t forget how he responded to the benching at Real Salt Lake last year. He was omnipresent in the rematch and his goals put the Crew ahead 2-0. That RSL rallied to win the game and the series was not his fault.

Look for another classic effort from him – if given the chance.

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