Gone or not from NYCFC, Dome Torrent was clear and direct

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By: John Rojas – @jrojasa75

He hinted after the last game of the season, Dome Torren may not be NYCFC’s coach in 2020. Before that day, he drops here and there some frustrations with MLS schedule, trips, and some of his club situations.

But it was on October 16th when he decided to put together all his deep feelings during a long and complicated season. He did it speaking in Spanish with the podcast SE LLAMA SOCCER  ( @sellamasoccer ) in an interview conducted the day before a friendly game with Chicago Fire, in the middle of a recess and before the Conference Semifinal that NYCFC ended up loosing with Toronto FC.

Those words became again relevant when the rumor of his exit from New York City FC was again strong on the days before of the MLS Cup Final.

Here is a translation of that conversation (you can here the original chat in Spanish here: ( https://us.ivoox.com/es/1×39-se-vienen-playoffs-dome-torrent-audios-mp3_rf_43199894_1.html?autoplay=true ) in the same order of topics that the hosts conducted and divided by topics headlined by the initial question each time.

ON BREAK BETWEEN REGULAR SEASON AND CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

“I’m trying to see how I can digest this because it is not easy. To stop when the team is playing in great form and have to wait 18 days to start the competition again.

You find here some things that are very different. The competition stops for 18 days, you can’t train with a full squad. I gave seven players out because of the International Break. But I’m trying to convince my players that there should be no excuses.

The other element is that most likely we won’t play on our Stadium. As you know, it’s a baseball stadium. We don’t have our own stadium, we share the baseball stadium with the Yankees and they are playing their Playoffs. It’s always an issue after another. But it is what it is. 

This is the way that we should compete this Playoffs and there should be no excuses. We are preparing to play out of our stadium, after 18 days of break and preparing with seven absent players. But we will see and try to see if we are able to win the first game. Because being a one-off game it’s even more complicated. Because, if someone makes a mistake or the referee makes a mistake, you are out of the competition”

A POSITIVE SIDE OF THE BREAK GETTING PLAYERS BACK FROM INJURY 

“The real advantage is that you don’t play the first game (of Playoffs), that is the positive side of this. The other one, as you mention, is that if you have injured players you have extra time to recover. But once again, we have seven players traveling or about to play one more game with their National Teams. Right now we are only 14. It’s complicated, some of them have 7 or 8 hours flights, they come with tire legs, Jet-lag.

So imagine if we didn’t finish first. We would have to play on the 19th (October), many of the absent players will get here the 17th or 18th, with a game on the 19th. These are things that I don’t understand. I really can’t understand it. Maybe I’m too conventional but I haven’t been able to understand it. 

If we would have to play on the 19th, seven important players wouldn’t be available or would have to play right after a 7 or 8-hour flight. But that is the way the MLS is, with its good things and the not so good things.

ON PLAYING AT CITI FIELD AND FIELD DIMENSIONS 

“No, no that it’s another baseball stadium. Sometimes it makes me laugh when I think about this, seriously. 

We can’t train in this stadium that we will play in. It’s another baseball stadium that I don’t even know how it is. We will see it the day before, I have been told that the measurements are very similar to the ones at Yankee Stadium. So we won’t miss that. 

But everything else is different. It is what it is because the team doesn’t have its own stadium. The stadium is a Yankees’ property and they have priority. Despite all this, we will try to compete and get to the final if it is possible. But everybody should be aware that everything right now issues”. 

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AFTER A COMMENT THAT ANDONI IRAOLA MADE ON YS DIAGONAL SETTING AND HAVING A HARD TIME ADJUSTING VISUALLY.

“It’s right, it’s right. I share that sentiment completely. Not only because of the dimensions of the field ( in Yankee Stadium ) but on top of that It is estranged because of the diagonal set up. Your eyes will get used to it little by little, but it is hard to understand all this. Even for the spectators ( chuckling ) is not easy because the filed is diagonal and very far from the stands.

We may have a little bit of advantage in that because playing here every other week or so, you may get used to it. But even with that is not easy. Visually it’s a different story. When you cross the ball is hard because you don’t even know where the lines are. Playing here as a home team gives us a bit of advantage because you may sense where the lines are. But I agree it is not easy”.

ON DAVID VILLA’S REPLACEMENT AND A FEW PLAYERS PICKING UP THE GOALS 

“To replace David is basically impossible. That is why I said during the preseason that replacing David would take an effort from the whole team. It’s very hard to sign a player like him who give you the performance that he gave to New York.

When you can’t – financially or for many other reasons – to sign a player to replace him, you have to look for four or five players that together can help with that amount of goals or a bit more.

I chose Taty because I knew that he would be able to have this leap. His leap has been incredible. And after watching a lot of tape and games, pointed at Mitrita and Heber.

We started the season without a proper number 9. You have to know that Heber was our 9th option. When I chose Heber he was the 9th option. This means that the club couldn’t sign the first option or the second, for many reasons, sometimes financial reasons, some times because said player in the last part of the process decided to stay where he was. 

But the fact here is that Heber was the 9th option and then when I said this is the player, we took 50 days to sign him, we took too long to do it. So we started without a proper number 9, the team played well but we lack power. We played better than the opposition, but at the end, we tie and tie.

The people have to know that from 24 teams we are in the middle of the table in terms of salary budget. New York City impacts because of the name of the city but looking at the league it is comparable to Espanyol Barcelona. 

Because of 20 teams in La Liga, Espanyol Barcelona is the 10th on players’ budget and in NYCFC we are the 12th between 24. This is something that many people don’t know and maybe because of this we couldn’t sign the exact player that would replace David Villa like for like because that wouldn’t fit in the budget”.

ON IF HAVING A DIFFERENT NUMBER 9 WOULD MAKE THE SEASON DIFFERENT FOR NYCFC 

“I have no doubt, I have no doubt. Again, the first six games we tied five and lost one. But for example, we played against LAFC, the team that won the Regular Season. And we played better even though we ended up tying the game. So I have no doubt that having from the beginning a player like Heber, we would be talking about the chance of winning the Supporters Shield. I’m convinced of that”. 

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ON KEATON PARKS GROW 

I agree with that. The thing that he changed the most is that at the beginning he would focus only when he had the ball. This is very American because American players go forward and forward without even thinking. 

After the first game he played 20 minutes, I showed him how I asked him to play as a second central midfielder and how he would end up every play in the box. I showed him how his work in that position was different. 

You could see that he was a kid ready to learn and ready to work on training, with qualities that he already had and I think we helped him to understand tactically the difference of playing with and without the ball. His leap has been something similar to the one Taty did”.

ON MEDINA’S SEASON

“It’s complicated because now we have a lot of competition. Sometimes we played even with five attacking players. The thing is that players like Keaton and Taty didn’t give up a second in training, they reveal against the situation that put them behind. I always told them that they should never give up and that they should show in every training that they are ready. Medina started the first seven games and it was a coincidence that Heber came, we started to win games and Jesus couldn’t make the 11 when we won. When those kinds of things happens you could reveal or fall a bit and that is the big difference between Keaton, Taty, and Jesus”

ON SANDS 

“We had him last year training and I saw a lot of qualities on him, (he is) very bright, who understand very quick the tactical instructions of his position and who can play either in front of the defense or as a center back in a line of three with a really good first pass. 

But his ability to understand different systems and read the game makes him ready to play even in Europe. I have no doubt. It’s a shame that he broke his arm and when he came back he broke his collar bone. 

For me he is one of the big promises of football in the United States, I have no doubt. He is ready to play in Europe, maybe not in one of the top but in any other team in Europe”.

ON MATIAS ALMEYDA STAYING WITH SJ

“It’s great news for the League because he is a great coach. The only thing that the press talked about was the marking man to man, but no one talked about the other great things they did. I think that in the last part of the season they were hit with some wrong calls. Mistakes from the referee that can happen, but impacted their results lately. If they had had some luck with that I have no doubt that they will be laying the Playoffs. 

I believe that the best team playing against us in our stadium was San Jose”

ON WHAT MLS NEEDS TO BE BETTER 

“Nobody can ignore that MLS is growing a lot and it is a fact. But there are three things that can make it better. 

One is the schedule, we played this year three games in seven days four times. It’s impossible to play at a high level like that. 

The other is the long trips. In NBA when you fly to the other Coast you play three or four games there. But here (MLS) you travel for so long to play one game, come back and flight again. 

And the other thing would be to respect the International Breaks. If they respect that, as the rest of the world does, they use more charters and with more normal scheduling, I think the league would be a lot better”. 

ON CONCAHAMPIONS IN 202 AND MAYBE AN NYCFC’S APPROACH PLAYING WITH MORE YOUNGSTERS IN MLS 

“It all depends. If I’m here or not. If I’m here I will try to give more time to academy players. I have to go to Manchester as any other year. Depending on who is in charge, the approach will change. I trust in the quality of the youngsters and I don’t focus on age. If I’m here, we will try to develop more players”.

ON STAYING IN 2020 

“I understand that if the team doesn’t win that game against DCUnited in the middle of the season, I wouldn’t be here. It happens to any coach in any team. 

You have contracts, but if the club doesn’t like you or you don’t like things, the perceptions of both sides are important to take a decision. 

For me is the same to have a contract for five years. At the end of the year we will sit down and if they offer me to stay I will have to see. And if they don’t like what we are doing, they could just tell me and take decisions even with the contract in place”.

ON VAN BRONCKHORTS RUMORS 

“I thought that he would come in April when things weren’t good here. It is a possibility, he is a coach with credentials. It is normal. I don’t know why that is coming up now when we are playing Playoffs, but it’s normal. Even though the rumor came out of Manchester. He is and would be a good option for the club”.

All you need to know about ‘Kaku’ Alejandro Romero Gamarra

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By John E. Rojas – @jrojasa75

Alejandro Romero Gamarra turned 23 just a few days back (January 11). Born in Ciudadela (a neighborhood at the west side of Gran Buenos Aires) in the vicinity of Fuerte Apache (where Carlos Tevez was born). Now, ‘Kaku’ is expected in New York/New Jersey thanks to his soccer talent.

The Romero Gamarra household is not a small count. Alejandro has 11 siblings, the older ones didn’t make it to be a professional footballers. The two youngest are footballers too (Franco ‘Tata’ at the Huracán Academy, another #10 – and the little one who is right now at River Plate Academy). Lourdes his sister, plays the game too.

When ‘Kaku’ was about 10 years old, he tried to make it into the River Plate’s Academy but the competition didn’t allow him to have a significant amount of game time, same thing happened with Velez Sarsfield. At the time, Romero was playing for a local club name Jorge Nuvelin and the coach decided to take him to Huracán where he not only made the Academy and lived at the team’s housing (Pensión), but debuted on August of 2013.

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Kaku played more than 100 games for Huracán – Here with his family receiveng the jersey to mark the occasion

It was that coach who seeing Alejandro style of play wanted to compare him with a Brazilian star, and in an intent to call him little ‘kaká’ ended up calling Romero ‘Kaku’, a nickname that is more know today in Argentinian soccer than his full name.

Alejandro played academy for Huracán and when he was playing “Sexta” (Sixth division), Antonio ‘Turco’ Mohamed (today Rayados’ coach in Liga MX) called him up for the First Team, jumping part of the process (the path to professionalism would be 6th – 5th – 4th – Reserva and then First Team).

The Mohamed house played a big role on Romero’s process. He even recognized how Antonio’s wife Patricia, helped him with money when he had no means to make it to the next stipend he used to receive while in the Academy.

His first game as a starter was for Copa Libertadores against Peruvian side Alianza Lima. Huracán won the match 4-0 and Kaku scored one of the goals. That game was under the interim term of Nestor Apuzzo as coach of the First Team.

Apuzzo has been for a long time the director of Huracan’s Academy, someone who believed on Kaku’s talent from the early days even to the point of being label for Romero as his savior. It relates to a time when playing for the academy ‘Kaku’ suffered an injury that made him think on drop his dream and give up on soccer, but the insistence from Apuzzo and motivation from his mother, made Alejandro come back to the work and regain his fitness.

The work paid off, Kaku not only made it to First Team but played the U20 World Cup with Argentina. He has the two jerseys (Huracán – debut’s day and Argentina U20) framed at home. For two years in a row, Alejandro was important part of the silverware and International recognition that Huracán brought back to his fans.

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Huracán was on it’s way to the airport in Caracas, when the bus was involved in accident. Kaku got out safe and sound

On February 10, 2016, the dream was very close to be cut short. Huracán played the night before in Venezuela vs Caracas FC (for the preliminary round of Copa Libertadores -Huracán won the face off and made it to the groups stage). And on this day, the team was headed to the airport when the bus lost it’s brakes and flips over on a ramp. Reports at the moment said that the speed of the bus was as high as 120 km/h ( almost 75 milles on a ramp).

Lucky for him, Kaku was uninjured but two of his teammates didn’t have the same luck. Patricio Toranzo  lost four fingers from his left foot and Diego Mendoza resulted with an important injury on his right ankle (a member of the technical staff was injured too).

“After what I saw on TV, I will only feel he’s safe when I can see him eye to eye and hug him”, said Romero’s mom while waiting for hours that the team come back from Venezuela the following day of the accident.

It wasn’t only one of those mother’s things. Alejandro recognized that the relationship was different. “She suffered a lot when she was growing up and made sure that we had as much as she could. We were friends, she and I were very close”. Mom was on attendance to almost every game Huracán and her son played at home.

Yes!, were, because in September 2017 after an illness, Gladys passed away. The kid off course suffered a lot and on October 28th Kaku shook his sadness off (4-0 victory vs Lanús) and scored. “When the ball went in I just wanted to cry and look to the sky. We are a big family and she was everything for us”, he said after the game.

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Romero Gamarra and his celebration pointing to the sky like looking for his mom who passed away in 2017

“I wanted to take her to travel with me, I wanted to give her an own house. Now I will do it on her name”, He explained some weeks later.

Beside a few weeks of mourning, Romero didn’t lost his fitness or soccer form. He kept being important for Huracán and when the questions began to pop up about options to leave the club, he always stated that one of the important elements for him was to make sure that Huracán would benefit from him and any transaction so the club could keep focusing on the academy and give the youngsters better tools to be developed.

Before his mom passed away, Cruz Azul from Liga MX wanted to have Romero Gamarra, negotiations were going fine between the player and the Mexican side, but Cruz Azul wanted to have him on loan (paying US$2 million). At the end, the negotiations between Huracán and Cruz Azul fell through.

“I’m ok with that”, he said. “I’m fine here and if any club wants to take me, they will have to negotiate with Nadur (Alejandro – Huracan’s president), he’s hard to negotiate with, but I know that at the end, He will get the best for the club”.

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Leaving Huracán is not simple for Kaku, he played more than 100 games for the side including the local tournament, Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana (both continental competitions). He won Copa Argentina (2013-14) and Super Copa Argentina ( 2014) for ‘El Globo’, most of the time with the number 10 on his back.

He’s 5’7” – 147 pounds, a crafty lefty with a very good right foot. Mostly playing the left wing or as a number 10 behind two strikers, with a few games on the right wing too. Kaku is married with Karen and is a father of two kids, including a little girl named Catalina, who was born a month before Kaku’s mom passed away.

And despide all his hardships, Romero was well know inside the locker room for being a joyful guy who is looking to play jokes and make everybody laugh to keep the high spirit.

All you need to know about Atlanta United’s new jewel : Ezequiel Barco

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By John E. Rojas – @jrojasa75

Now that Atlanta United closed with success the soap opera of the winter (summer down south in Argentina – and it wasn’t the only drama for Independiente or the Argentinian teams), is time to know a little bit more about the new MLS jewel, Ezequiel Barco!

From the first reports back in early November until now, fans most likely saw every single clip, highlight and cut from Barco’s stile of play. So let’s jump that and focus on who he is as a person, where he comes from and why the kid is a special person and talent.

So here is all we can tell you about the 18 years old attacking midfielder known during the academy days as ‘Cara de Viejo’ (His face looks like a lot more older than he really is).

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Ezequiel Barco was born in Villa Gobernador Valdéz (Santa Fé Province). The small town is about 30 minutes from Rosario (Tata’s born city – one of the most soccer prolific cities in Argentina – yes! same as Messi).

Barco’s father (Omar) was his first coach on a local team called Mosconi, where he played along side his brother (Cristian) who is one year younger than Ezequiel. The trio and their team were champions on the local league. After the early shift at work, Ezequiel’s dad used to get home and go out with the kids to train them with the rest of the team. They used to play on a 7 vs 7 league with a 3-3 setting, Ezequiel being one of the forwards on that line of three.

He has said that he used to score a lot of goals and even though his family mention that he was the most talented on those teams, he did not notice it or acted out as a star kid.

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Since then, he considered himself as a winger who loves to make diagonals from left to right, but many saw him as a typical number 10 who should play behind two strikers. He plays the right side too on a line of three up front.

At the Barco household (two daughters and two boys) both parents worked. Even until 2017 Ezequiel’s mom (Esther) worked as a cleaning lady (you can imagine that in a small town in Argentina, working as a cleaning person does not provide the income that  people with that line of work can have here in the States).

When Ezequiel signed his first contract as profesional, he asked his mom to stop working and move with him to Avellaneda, but she did not want to stop working and depend only of his child.

Ezequiel’s dad worked on a cooking pots’ factory, he accepted his son’s invitation to quit the job and move to Avellaneda to live with Ezequiel, when the teenager signed his first profesional contract.

Before arriving to Independiente’s system, he was let go by Boca Juniors, Gimnasia de la Plata and River Plate. Ezequiel himself admits that he wasn’t in a good level at the moment, he was 15 at the time.

Jorge Griffa, a well known ex player, scout and coach took him under his wing and made him play on his academy until 2015 when he finally made it to Independiente (playing Academy 7th division – the path to professionalism would be 6th – 5th – 4th – Reserva ad then First Team).

Barco played a bit on 7th division and a bit on 6th, before being called up for the First Team (August 2016 under Gabriel Milito’s coaching staff – Milito played for FC Barcelona among other teams and the Argentinian National Team before his coaching career).

After moving to Avellaneda, He lived at the team’s housing (pensión). He used to sneak after his practice and watch the First Team’s training, thinking on what he had to do in order to be as soon as possible with the First Team ( “los grandes”).

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Ezequiel Barco during his first days at Independiente de Avellaneda Academy

Living at that team’s housing was hard at the beginning. Specially because he was away from his parents and had to comply with some tight schedule on a daily basis, comparing with the freedom he had at home only going to school and playing soccer.

At some point he told his parents that he wasn’t ready to live inside the academy and wanted to go back home. But his parents and family used to take turns to call him and motivate him to keep fighting for his dream. He accepted that during that time he used to cry a lot every day.

Things got better when he move out of the team’s housing and start to make his own life, once he signed his first profesional contract. One of his agents taught him how to drive last year.

He didn’t finish school because once he started to play for the first team, the training, games and travel got in the middle. On top of that, he accepted that he did not have a great desire to study, he actually accepted that during the team’s housing days he suffered when he had to go to school.

He was part of the Argentina U20 National Team during the South American qualifier for the last World Cup (South Corea 2017). During the tournament, Ezequiel complained about a case of mistreatment from the National Team coach and after qualify for the World Cup, Independiente decided that the club would not allow Ezequiel to travel with the National Team, resulting on Ezequiel missing the World Cup.

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Barco during the U20 South American Championship (2017)

During his days with the Academy. Barco used the number 10, so he did a t the U20 National Team. But once he signed with the first team his number was the 27. Ezequiel has said that he would love to wear that number 10 again at some point and that La Liga and Premier League are his favorites.

He’s 5’4”, his birthday is March 29th, debuted on Argentinian First Division on August 8th 2016 and scored his first goal on September 10th. He played in total 57 games for Independiente (38 League / 3 Cup / 16 Copa Sudamericana) and scored 8 goals (5 league / 3 Copa Sudamericana)

Joel Qwiberg’s inside fire comes from his roots and will settle in California

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By John E Rojas – @jrojasa75

San Jose Earthquakes secured with Joel Qwiberg (25 years old), a speedy left back with almost seven years as professional, a great deal of leadership, clear convictions and an internal fire with a big South American dream.

“I’m a team player; I work hard, very hard. I think I’m good taking the set pieces with a natural left foot”, said Qwiberg on a conversation through voice messages that took about two days, in order to surf his career and personal story.

He is coming to MLS in the midst of a few offers from big clubs in Sweden and at least one more European team, and after playing more than 50 games for a club that is consider in his country as ‘The Ajax’ of Sweden.

IF Brommapojkarna is the name of the club, well known for his vast academy. Records show that the club had 247 teams in different divisions and categories involving 3,000 players (men and women) in 2017.

“Some things were important to me when I was thinking about my next choice, but one of them is that it’s well known by now the professionalism in MLS, the facilities and the fact that as players we only have to take care of training well and perform well in games”. That’s part of the reasons why Joel is leaving his home country and Europe for United States.

For many, the fact that the new Quakes’ coach is Swedish, could be the perfect explanation for this move, and even some would think that Mikael Stahre, the new boss, brought Qwiberg into his project. However, the player explained it differently.

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Joel’s now former team is considered as ‘The Ajax’ of Sweden

“No, I don’t know personally Mikael Stahre, of course I know who he is and the big reputation that he has here in Sweden. But as far as I know, San Jose has been scouting me for a long period. I love what Jesse Fioranelli explained me about the project”.

Life is more than soccer

Another factor that motivated Qwiberg to come has more to be with his personal story and his big South American dream. “When I think of my idea of progress in my game, and what I want to do out of the field, San Jose is the best place for me to be”, he said.

Qwiberg had spells with the Swedish National Team Under 17 and Under 19. However, his real dream is to play for the Colombian National Team.

Yes! You are reading it right. It can be dream difficult to become reality, but Qwiberg has at lease the passport and the blood to begin with.

“I was adopted when I was 6 months old and I can’t even remember when I was told about it. Is something that I’ve always known about.” Said Qwiberg, who was born in Colombia and has never set a foot in the South American country since his adoption.

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“I never had a problem with being adopted; I had a fantastic life as a kid. But I consider myself a Colombian living in Sweden”.

A military father and a teacher mother, plus a younger sister who is a biological daughter of his adoptive parents, makes Joel’s Swedish family. “I never had a problem with being adopted; I had a fantastic life as a kid. But I consider myself a Colombian living in Sweden”.

Joel has a big tattoo on his chest that reads “Colombia”, and another in his right arm that reads “Santa Fe de Bogota” referring to the city that he was born in.

“Living in California will help me to learn Spanish with some teammates and the Latino community in San José, on top of being closer to Colombia than from here in Sweden”.

Qwiberg said that he had the plan to fly to Bogotá this December, but after closing the transfer with San Jose, the time to get things sort out and be ready to move to California made the trip complicated and decided to put a halt on the plan.

He is not actively looking for his biological family right now, but does not dismiss the idea of start doing it at some point.

“I’m really proud of my roots and every time I say that I’m Colombian, people make jokes and all that. For me that is not a problem. I’m proud of where I’m coming from”, he said.

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“…I’m proud of where I’m coming from”

Of course being public about his dream of playing for the Colombian National Team may affect his chances with the Swedish National Team, nevertheless Joel insists that this decision is part of who he is.

“You have to be honest with yourself and let’s say – just a thought- that I have the opportunity to play for both national teams and I have to take the decision. I will go with Colombia because that is what my heart is asking me to do”.

While his dreams of getting closer to his roots could be easier living in San Jose, Qwiberg’s determination and focus is with the Quakes, “I want to do great for them, play on a full Avaya Stadium and be of great help for the team”.

Schelotto: “I like the idea of coaching in the MLS someday”

He is one of the main characters of what was the last golden age of the Argentine first division. Born in the lower ranks of Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata, Guillermo Barros Schelotto became a legend when he joined Boca Juniors in 1997. For over a decade, the unforgettable number seven was part of a team that won half a dozen league titles, two editions of the Copa Sudamericana, four Copa Libertadores and two Intercontinental Cups.

Barros Schelotto has the rare privilege of being idolized by fans of the two teams he played for in Argentina. He certainly is one of the greatest players (along with Juan Román Riquelme, Martín Palermo, and Colombian footballers such as ‘Chicho’ Serna and Jorge Bermúdez) in the Boca squad that made history, both at continental and global levels. Over sixty goals and countless assists are Guillermo’s most tangible legacy for the Blue & Gold shirt.

The 2005 and 2006 seasons were the two of the most productive in Boca’s recent history. In just twenty-four months the team won five titles, both in Argentina and South America. But Barros Schelotto had no significant involvement in obtaining those achivements. About the same time Major League Soccer got in his way, as the former player told Jugador Franquicia in an exclusive interview.

(Alfio) Basile was Boca’s coach back then, and I was not playing much as a starter. I traveled to San Juan de Puerto Rico to visit my brother (Gustavo Barros Schelotto), because he was playing for the Islanders in the USL. There I met Jorge Alvial, which at that time was the head coach of the team, and had previously been an assistant coach at several franchises in the MLS. Now he works as a scout for Chelsea in South America. So we started talking about soccer. Alvial asked me if I was willing to play in Major League Soccer. I replied that I liked the idea, because I was already a veteran in football and the United States seemed like an interesting place to live. He told me he knew Mark McCullers, Columbus Crew’s manager. That was in 2006, and in 2007 they came to Argentina so see me play and talk to me. Two weeks after that they made me an offer to go to the MLS.

What did you know about Columbus and the league at that time?

I did some research on the internet about the city, but I also had close relatives who had lived in the United States. I figured it would be something interesting and that moving would be a safe thing for the whole family. And I realized it was a league that was growing progressively. The Galaxy had hired (David) Beckham, Chicago hired Cuauhtémoc Blanco. They were getting some big names that made it even more interesting.

What did you find when you arrived at Columbus Crew?

The truth is that I found an organization with a solid base. Because they had their stadium, training facilities, offices. It was comparable in structure to Boca, no doubt. I found it all very organized, very American if you will. Everything in its place. One experiences a huge pressure in Argentine football. Negative pressure, not the positive kind of pressure. That does not exist in the United States, which allows you to live in a calm environment. One could sense that. When I was introduced to the fans in Columbus the coach and my teammates joined me. It was a normal ceremony, nothing unusual. I felt very comfortable right from the start.

Are you still in touch with the club?

Yes, I still am in contact with some people in the club. I keep in touch with some former teammates. I always travel to Columbus every six months. Recently I ran into Frankie Hejduk, who is working in Columbus. I saw him in a shopping mall and we chatted for a while. We are always in touch. The truth is that my family and I had so much fun there that we sincerely feel very attached to Columbus. We are in contact with many people from the city, people from the club or from the neighborhood where we lived. I loved the experience of playing there.

So you are up to date with what the Crew are doing in the league.

Yes. I keep myself informed about the MLS, which improves over time, and its growth. I also follow the news about former teammates that now play for other teams. I try to find out how they did every weekend. And besides that, I really like the league. Every weekend I look for the final scores, the news about different teams, and anything related to the league. Unfortunately in Argentina you can’t use MLS Live. That’s a pitty because I can not watch the live games that I want. But I follow the league through the MLS website, where I find the highlights of the games and other information. It shows that the league’s economy is growing and that the teams are growing as well. From a distance one senses that the process of selection is now more strict and that they expect to hire coaches with better records than in previous seasons.

Sigi Schmid was your coach in Columbus.

He hired me.

What kind of coach is Schmid?

I my opinion, he is very good. I do not keep daily contact with him, but every three or four months we talk over the phone or we send each other emails. We talk about players and other things. Schmid was very kind to me. I liked his way of training, which is simple. He plays to win. You may defend or attack, but he is very straightforward. His style is very straightforward. I always watch the Seattle games, of course. I know they have won the West Conference two or three times, but have failed to reach the MLS Cup game. I like Schmid. He is a very German coach.

The Major League Soccer today is a coveted destination for many South American players. The financial problems that some teams and leagues in Europe experienced in recent years have enhanced the attractiveness of North American professional soccer. This situation has not gone unnoticed for Barros Schelotto.

 Many players in Argentina look forward to the possibility of going to the MLS. It is a real possibility. They want to go there, even at a young age.

In addition, the MLS has become a repository for the Argentine ‘enganche’ (the attacking midfielder, the ‘trequartista’ in Italian soccer). A position regarded by many as an endangered species in international football, but that seems to be in good health north of the Mexican border. The most recent examples are those of Diego Valeri, Ignacio Piatti and Matías Pérez García, who excelled in that position in the Argentine league.

Soccer is dynamic. Tactics change slightly over time. So the creative player has to change his position in the field. Sometimes they play in the typical ‘enganche’ position, as (Juan Román) Riquelme and Javier Morales do. I had to play in that position in Columbus Crew. I was an attacker, playing behind the center forward. I understand that (Federico) Higuaín is playing in that position now as well. These players end up being important in any scheme. I think that with the growth of the league and its franchises now they have the ability not only to get Argentine footballers on loan. Now they can hire them permanently, for several seasons. In the case of (Ignacio) Piatti what happened is that his contract with San Lorenzo had expired. They did sign Pérez García. They signed Valeri as well (at first it was a loan and later on they signed him). I think the MLS teams have a greater interest in Argentina. Not only they get just the players they can hire according to their budget, now they are starting to get the players they really want.

The emergence of the MLS in the Argentine job market transformed Guillermo Barros Schelotto into an adviser for many players.

I’ve talked to several of them. (Diego) Valeri was playing for us in Lanús when he went to Portland. He had already decided to go there because it was a very good deal for him and he was very interested. So I told him about my experience. I imagine that since the league has improved he must be enjoying it even more than I did. I also talked to Federico Higuaín when he went to Columbus. I met with him here in Buenos Aires. It wasn’t like they accepted the offers after I told them about my experience. They already had decided to join the MLS. I just gave my support. Because I knew where they were going to play. And it was very good.

‘The Twin’ was not the first Argentine player in Major League Soccer, but he was the first to catch the interest of the fans in the southern tip of the continent. They started to look at the first division of the United States and Canada with more respect. In his four seasons in the league he scored 37 goals and generated 57 assists over 110 games. And, most importantly, he raised the MLS Cup in 2008, when Columbus Crew defeated New York Red Bulls by a 3-1 score. His team also won the Supporters Shield in 2008 and 2009. The impact of Barros Schelotto both in Columbus and the MLS is also very important. In the 2008 season he was the  Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the league and the MLS Cup game. He was included in the MLS Best XI in 2007 and 2008. Amid so many honors and trophies Guillermo remembers the players who impressed him the most while he wore the Crew’s jersey.

I love Sean Johnson, Chicago’s goalkeeper. I think he will end up playing in the Premier League, no doubt. Chicago Fire came close to signing Silvio Romero, who was our striker in Lanús. And I told him, “You’ll be able to score against every team, but you will not be able to score a goal against your team’s goalkeeper”. I think I played once against Johnson and I was amazed. I was struck by the way he played. I loved it. We are talking about American players, aren’t we? Because at that time (David) Beckham, or now (Robbie) Keane, and Javier Morales when he won the title with Salt Lake, they were all very good. I’m talking about the Americans because they were the ones I did not know. I liked (Brad) Davies, who played  for Houston. Brad Evans and Robbie Rogers, they played with me in Columbus Crew. I think they are still young, because they were 18 or 19 when I was there, so they must now be 25 or 26 years-old. They were two remarkable players. I liked them a lot. Even (Chad) Marshall, who is now in Seattle, I think he is a great centre-back. He had many head injuries. I told Alejandro Moreno that Marshall was a player made for the Premier League. (Brian) McBride had returned to Chicago, and he was in the final stage of his career but you could tell he was very good, a natural scorer. And (Juan Pablo) Ángel was in New York that year. He did very well during his first two seasons there.

Then you have a positive opinion about the American players in MLS.

Yes, the American players have an edge over the rest: their physical strength. The American footballer is generally very strong. And you can’t say the same thing about all the foreign players in the MLS. I did not consider myself as a physically powerful player. And you could tell that all the Americans had that factor. All were strong and powerful. And they were fast too.

What are the most rewarding memories and what is the most negative experience of your stint in the MLS?

Negative, none. Those four years were very good for me. I can say that the best moment was when we won the MLS Cup in Los Angeles. That was achieving a great career goal. But I did not experience anything negative. The four years I spent there were good, because they treated me very well.

How do you evaluate the possibility that in the future the best MLS teams are invited to compete in the Copa Libertadores?

I think that it would be fine in terms of competitiveness, because that would put them one step closer to the big leagues of the continent, such as those of Argentina, Brazil, Mexico. Because the MLS sides have CONCACAF’s Champions League, but the only tough competitors there are the Mexican clubs. It would be great. It is very difficult to schedule midweek international games. Especially if you’re a team of Buenos Aires and you have to fly for eighteen hours to play against Seattle Sounders. But I think it would be great to find a way for MLS clubs to compete with teams from South America, because that will get them to grow a lot in the sports side. And that would extend the brand of the MLS, even though I think it is well installed.

When will the MLS be acknowledged as a respected, well known league in the rest of the world? Many still consider it is some sort of a golden retirement for European football greats.

I think they just need more time. The growth of the MLS was very strong in recent years. They have to keep on cementing and expanding. I think the MLS does the right thing by bringing not only famous players, but players who can make the league grow. I know that (Frank) Lampard will join the league soon. He is currently  playing for a very important team, and perhaps he is in the last years of his career, but he still can give a lot to the MLS. There is not much to add to the league’s growth.

Our web’s name is ‘Jugador Franquicia’ (‘Designated Player’, in Spanish). You were a designated player in Columbus. Could you explain in a simple way what ‘designated player’ is, please?

Honestly, I never considered myself as a franchise player or a designated player, or that it was any different from the rest of my teammates. I remember one day one of the assistant coaches said something about me being a designated player, and when I finished training I asked him not to mention it again in front of my colleagues. It meant nothing to me to be a designated player. I was just another player, just like the rest. I always tried to help from my position. No matter if I was a franchise player or not. I realize that this is a recognition in the American sports culture. But to be honest this situation was not pleasant for me. I did not want anyone to treat me in a special way.

Today Barros Schelotto is a young and renowned coach. Lanús won the 2013 Copa Sudamericana (a sort of equivalent of UEFA’s Europa League in CONMEBOL’s territory). His team is a permanent candidate to win the Argentine league. And his name always sounds whenever a crisis strikes Argentine soccer powerhouse Boca Juniors. Now we must add the possibility that Guillermo and his brother Gustavo may end up being hired by some South American national team eager to clinch the qualification to the 2018 World Cup. Despite this exciting list of job options GBS does not rule out or minimize the chances of being the coach of a Major League Soccer team soon.

Not too long ago your name was mentioned as a possible coach for Columbus Crew. Did you get a solid offer from the club? Do you see the MLS as a still distant option in your coaching career?

I received a phone call from the Columbus Crew general manager. They were interested in my situation in Lanús. Well, the team had a new owner. The previous owners were members of the Hunt family and I think (Anthony) Precourt had recently bought the club. I was under contract and could not get out of Lanús, obviously. They never offered me the coach position, (Mark) McCullers just wanted to know what my situation was. I really look forward to the possibility of training an MLS team and I hope I can work there someday. Today I have a contract with Lanús, but I do not rule out the Major League Soccer. As soon as I am available and a MLS club makes me an offer, I will be there. I am not going to speculate, or wait to be again in the MLS at the end of my coaching career. I think of the league as a possibility in the near future.

Is Columbus Crew the only option for you in the MLS? Or are you willing to listen to offers from other teams?

Obviously I have a great sense of appreciation and gratitude for Columbus, because they have treated me very well both in the club and the city. But overall the MLS clubs and the people working for them behave according to similar parameters. Any team would be a good option for me.