Will the Crew strike gold again in Argentina, as they did in 2007 with the signing of Guilermo Barros Schelotto?
As is the case in the silly transfer season, rumors will fly. However, an interesting and completely factual tale from Columbus Crew technical director Brian Bliss will likely lead to much more rumor and speculation.
On Saturday morning, Bliss told "Inside the Crew" host Neil Sika that he was at a Lanus game in Argentina where a man was killed outside of the stadium. That horrific event appears to have happened at this game - a 1-0 Lanus win over C.A. All Boys on May 26th.
The gunfire was a result of internal fighting between various Lanus supporter's groups. According to this report, it appears that a group of at least six people riding motorcycles drove up to a crowd of rival supporters standing outside the gates of the Lanus grounds, and opened fire. One man, Daniel Sosa, 21, was murdered, while 5 others were taken to the hospital with gun shot wounds.
This all happened BEFORE the game started, by the way. If you haven't been paying attention, Argentine football violence seems to be getting worse by the day.
Bliss went on to say that they tried to leave early to beat the traffic. However, only when they were barred from leaving the stadium did they and others learn of what had happened outside of the stadium before the game.
So what does this most recent tragic event have to do with the Crew's Designated Player search?
Before we go too far, we should absolutely recognize that there may have been no players on the field that the Crew were scouting, and that this mystery player they are in negotiations with could very well have not been playing for either team in this game.
However, it would also seem equally possible that this trip to Lanus might have been to scout a player, or more specifically, confirm what they'd seen on video of a player who lives on the other half of the hemisphere. Since we have also heard that there are "snags" that have developed in their potential DP target signing with the team, perhaps this was a scouting trip to look at 2nd, 3rd, or 4th options on their list.
At the very least, since we know what game the Crew delegation attended, we can look at those rosters to see if there are any potential targets that fit the parameters the Crew have set up, and if any of these players would be in the ball park of a player that the Crew would be able to afford.
For the sake of this discussion, we'll assume that the Crew are indeed looking at the rosters of Lanus and their opponent, C.A. All Boys, and that they are still searching for a creative player who can score.
With those (very iffy) parameters in mind, here are some intriguing candidates for the Columbus Crew that played in this game:
On the Lanus roster, Mauro Camoranesi is a player of international pedigree whose name immediately jumps out. He played for Juventus for 8 years, as well as stints in the Bundesliga and Mexican Primera Division.
Also, he won a World Cup playing for Italy. Warrants mentioning.
However, he is 35 years old. He is, by most accounts, winding down his career, and not likely to want another challenge. Despite his Italian heritage, he was born in Argentina, and at this advanced age, wouldn't seem likely to want a transfer out of his home country.
Also, there was this ugly incident back in 2010. Not exactly a player who would add character to the locker room.
For what it's worth, Camoranesi was subbed off in the 26th minute of the game Bliss attended.
A slightly more tantalizing option for Crew fans would be that of Mariano Pavone. A true striker, Pavone would seem to be more in line with the Crew's own parameters - a proven goalscorer who brings creativity. A smaller striker (5'9), he is just barely on the wrong side of 30 (hit that milestone in May), and scored 7 goals in 14 games for Lanus this season, including the game winner in the game Bliss attended.
Pavone also has some notoriety for the right and wrong reasons:
Right - He and his wife (Carolina Molinari) are apparently famous models in Argentina. We're not talking David Beckham and Posh Spice (thankfully), but he is a well-known Argentine footballer who would likely have a legion of fans interested in whatever team he signs with.
Wrong - He missed a penalty kick that would have kept River Plate from getting relegated for the first time in team history. He actually left the club due to death threats after the miss. As cynical as this may be, death threats might make him more likely to want to come to a city like Columbus, where he would certainly be able to blend in and not be the subject of fan violence. A conversation with former River man, Lanus native, and Columbus advocate Gino Padula would certainly be something Crew brass should attempt to arrange, if they haven't already.
Unfortunately, as of yesterday, Pavone was being linked with Cruz Azul. Wikipedia has already placed him on Los Cementeros. Whether or not he signs with Cruz Azul, I would think that if he is drawing interest from the best teams in Mexico, he might be out of the Crew's price range.
If the Crew were going to scout a player from C.A. All Boys, here are a couple of intriguing possibilities:
Matias Perez Garcia is a 27 year-old, 5'5'' attacking midfielder who played for Universidad de Chile last season (maybe not surprisingly, the rivals of Universidad Catolica, Milovan Mirosevic's former team). Wikipedia says he wears #32, while the game report from the Lanus game says he came off the bench as a #10. In either case, he would seem to be a more creative presence that would sit behind the forwards.
But the most appealing option on All Boys' roster (to me, at least) is Mauro Matos a 29 year-old, 5'11 forward, who has been a member of All Boys since 2010. He is their #9 shirt, and in his last two seasons in the Primera division, has averaged a goal roughly every three games (21 in 70 appearances).
The age of Matos seems like what one would expect of the Crew when it comes to a designated player - he is probably done with getting any looks from European clubs, while he could still provide four or five years of service in MLS.
I know less about each of the All Boys players off the field, but hey, I'm not the Crew's scouting department.
Bottom line - if the Crew are looking for players in Argentina, they could pretty much stumble into any stadium in the country and come out with a handful of tantalizing options. Here's to hoping they find what they, and Crew fans, are looking for.