Last chance for some Columbus veterans?
OBETZ, Ohio – Too much is at stake for the Crew to think beyond Saturday’s deciding game of the Conference Semifinal series against Colorado (4 p.m. ET, TeleFutura; Rapids lead the series 1-0).
But the reality, as cold and as harsh as the wind that whipped through Friday’s brief straining session, is that several of the veteran players could make their final appearance in Crew Stadium if the Crew do not beat the Rapids by more than a goal.
Duncan Oughton, 33, is the longest-tenured player, having been drafted by Columbus out of Cal State Fullerton in 2001. Frankie Hejduk (36) returned to MLS from Europe in 2003 while Guillermo Barros Schelotto (37) was signed in April 2007.
Gino Padula (34) was acquired the next season when the Crew won the MLS Cup.
The Crew trail the Rapids 1-0 on aggregate after a loss last week in Colorado. On Saturday, a tie or loss could start the dismantling of a team that won the Supporters’ Shield for the most points in the league in 2008 and ’09.
All four players made it clear they hope the club renews their options for 2011.
“I want to come,” Schelotto said. “If we don’t win I don’t know what is happening next year because I haven't talked with my agent yet or the coach.”
As for Saturday being his final match, “I don’t think about that, but I know it’s possible,” he said.
Hejduk was adamant as well that he wants to play next season.
“As far as I’m concerned I still have another contract here and hopefully everything works out that way,” he said. “At the end of the day you can’t guess what’s going to happen. The only thing I have in my court is if I want to retire or not and I definitely don’t. That’s not happening for me. This is where I want to be when I retire.”
Schelotto started all but one match this season and led the Crew in goals and assists. Hejduk was hampered by injuries but started 20 of 30 regular-season matches.
Padula was replaced by rookie left back Shaun Francis in mid-July then suffered knee and ankle injuries that limited him to half the schedule.
“I want for it to be here but you don’t know what is in the future,” Padula said.
Oughton played just three MLS games but had important minutes in the Champions League and the US Open Cup.
“I feel like I’ve been playing well in those games,” he said. “Time will tell if they’ll have me back.”
Coach Robert Warzycha knows changes will occur if the team loses in the first round for a second straight year.
“From my 14, 15 years of experience in this league the team is always different year to year,” he said. “It’s the last chance for this group to win a championship because next year there’ll be different personnel.”
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