LOS ANGELES -- The Columbus Crew's Guillermo Barros Schelotto, a midfield wizard who was a longtime star in his native Argentina, won the MLS Most Valuable Player award Thursday.
The 35-year-old Schelotto had 19 assists and seven goals for Columbus as the Crew bounced back from a 9-11-10 record the previous year to finish with an MLS-best 17-7-6 mark.
He and his teammates face the New York Red Bulls on Sunday afternoon in Carson for the MLS Cup.
Schelotto said he was honored to receive the MVP trophy, adding, "It will be even better when we win on Sunday."
Schelotto, from Buenos Aires, outpolled runner-up Landon Donovan of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Cuauhtemoc Blanco of the Chicago Fire in the voting by the league's coaches and general managers, players and media.
The Argentine has adapted quickly to both the Crew and to the city of Columbus.
"My teammates and coach had a lot to do with it. They made the transition much faster, a transition that could have been very difficult," Schelotto, speaking through a translator, said. "They understood that I don't understand English and that I had another style of play.
"And I realized that I had to change things to be able to adapt quickly as well."
Unlike during his career in Argentina, Schelotto can lead a relatively quiet life in middle America.
Saying he hoped to play another year or two in MLS, he said, "I always said I was going to stay here, because I like the city, I like the country, I like the soccer. The stadiums, the people ... the media," he said, eliciting a laugh from reporters.
"I like the calmness, the security. I don't have any problems in Columbus."
He had five game-winning assists during the regular season and has three assists in three playoff games, helping set up all but two of the Crew's postseason scores.
A former standout for Argentine club Boca Juniors, the 5-foot-8, 160-pound Schelotto signed with Columbus on April 19, 2007. He becomes the second MLS player from his country to become the MVP; Christian Gomez of D.C. United received the honor in 2006.
Schelotto's 19 assists this season tied for second-most in league history, topped only by Carlos Valderrama's 26 in 2000.
Donovan led the league in scoring with 20 goals, and Blanco keyed the Fire's drive to the Eastern Conference final, where they lost 2-1 to Columbus.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press