When Guillermo Barros Schelotto was looking to move from Boca Juniors to MLS in 2007, the Revolution were his first choice. But the Revolution passed, so he went to the Columbus Crew and led them to the 2009 MLS Cup title.
Barros Schelotto, who was named coach of the LA Galaxy Wednesday, did not make his MLS debut until he was 34 years old. The Revolution might have been shying away from signing older players, but Barros Schelotto — like Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season — demonstrated that an aging star can play a dominant role in the league.
Barros Schelotto also could have been a bargain. The Revolution had little salary to offer, but Barros Schelotto would have accepted a $150,000 deal, according to a league source. Barros Schelotto had played for Boca Juniors for 11 seasons and the club had agreed to waive a transfer fee should he depart.
The Revolution have unwisely passed up several players in their 23-year existence, and Barros Schelotto was not the first or last. Their history with Argentines goes back to the inaugural MLS season.
The Revolution had interviewed Osvaldo Ardiles for the head coaching position in December 1995 and seemed to regard him as a top candidate. But Ardiles, who starred with Argentina’s 1978 World Cup champions and coached in the Premiership, also had an offer in Japan. He went to Shimizu S Pulse, guiding them to the 1996 J League Cup title and going on successful runs with several teams in the country.
The Revolution became the last team to hire a head coach in MLS’s initial season, naming Frank Stapleton on Jan. 4, 1996.
Former Boca Juniors midfielder Alberto Naveda became one of the Revolution’s stars in 1996 and ’97. Alejandro Farias and Leonardo Squadrone were with the team in 1997, Mario Gori and Ariel Graziani in 1999, then Dario Fabbro and Jorge Vasquez in 2003.
After Barros Schelotto went to Columbus in 2007, Revolution coaches Steve Nicol and assistant Paul Mariner took a scouting trip to Argentina, hoping to bring back center forward Jose Sand. But Revolution management turned down the request for Sand.
In 2011, Argentine defender Franco Coria was an Opening Day starter for the Revolution. Milton Caraglio arrived late in the season, scoring three goals in 12 appearances. Caraglio moved to Pescara in Italy’s Serie A and is now starring with Cruz Azul in Mexico.
MLS’s recent move toward Argentine coaches started with Tata Martino , who guided Atlanta United to the MLS Cup title last month.
There is no guarantee that Matias Almeyda (San Jose Earthquakes) or Barros Schelotto will match Martino’s accomplishments. Martino gained coaching experience at lower levels in Argentina, and at the highest levels, guiding Paraguay and Argentina, and FC Barcelona.
Nor will these be the last Argentines to be considered for MLS coaching positions. Marcelo “El Muneco” Gallardo has a strong future, judging by River Plate’s accomplishments and style of play. Gallardo, who performed for D.C. United in 2006, guided River Plate to victory over Barros Schelotto’s Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores last month.
Martino gave tactical lessons in winning the MLS Cup. But his greatest legacy could have been convincing Atlanta owner Arthur Blank to challenge an MLS taboo by investing in transfer fees.
Blank shelled out $36.5 million in transfer fees in building Atlanta United into a championship team in its second year of existence. That’s a minuscule number compared with the transfer budgets of top European clubs, but more than MLS is accustomed to disbursing.
Martino spread around the payments. Ezequiel Barco cost $15 million, Miguel Almiron $8 million, league Most Valuable Player Josef Martinez $5 million.
Crucially, Martino proved Atlanta’s assets could appreciate. The transfermarkt.com site lists Atlanta United’s roster value at $61 million, highest in MLS.
The Revolution remain the lowest-valued team in the league at $17 million. If coach Brad Friedel succeeds in returning the Revolution to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, the roster’s worth will certainly increase. But the Revolution would have a much better chance of challenging the league’s top teams by delving into the transfer market.
Blank, a Babson graduate who established Home Depot, is known for innovative business practices. The $13 million he paid for Almiron and Martinez was probably among the most effective investments he has made.
UMass-Lowell defender/midfielder Jakov Basic will skip the MLS Combine to sign with Hajduk Split’s B team in Croatia. Basic played for Central Florida as a freshman, then helped the River Hawks to a 33-14-5 record the last three seasons . . . Dartmouth’s Justin Donawa recently returned from a trial with Aberdeen in Scotland. Donawa, who was not invited to the combine after being limited to six games (two goals) because injury, has played 10 games (two goals) for Bermuda’s national team and was the Ivy League indoor triple jump champion.