Toronto FC adds defender, avoids Schelotto

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 4:00 AM ET

The Columbus Crew may be guilty of looking beyond today's Major League Soccer match against Toronto FC at BMO Field.

The Crew has been the best team in the MLS for most of this season and sits on top of the standings, two points ahead of the New England Revolution with a game in hand.

But yesterday the club all but admitted that sitting superstar Guillermo Barros Schelotto has more to do with resting the high-scoring midfielder for the playoffs than a slightly pulled hamstring injury suffered Tuesday in practice.

Crew coach Sigi Schmidt said that rather than risk further damaging the minor injury, he would keep Schelotto on the bench today.

"Sometimes if you have someone with a little knock or injury you hold them off the turf," Schmidt said, referring to BMO's carpet.

The 35-year-old Schelotto, of Argentina, leads the league in assists with 18, and has been part of all of the Crew's past 10 goals.

It's likely that Schmidt will start Pat Noonan in Schelotto's spot.

TFC coach John Carver won't mind having to face the Crew without Schelotto, especially with a new face on the back line.

Yesterday the team traded third- and fourth-round draft picks in 2009 to the New York Red Bulls for 23-year-old defender Hunter Freeman.

"We're very happy to have him join us," Mo Johnston. TFC's director of soccer, said. "He's a talented and versatile player who can play in numerous positions. We are aware that his plan is to play in Europe next season but he will provide great cover for us as we push toward the playoffs."

Freeman's contract will keep his rights with the Reds only until the end of 2009.

If Freeman returns after Dec. 31, 2009, New York retains Freeman's MLS rights and TFC would not receive compensation.

The Portland, Ore., native will line up in place of Marco Velez, who will sit out the first of a two-game suspension for a red card penalty in last week's 3-1 loss to Chivas USA.

After being bolted to the bench in New York for the past few matches, Freeman said yesterday he's excited at the prospect of playing in front of TFC's rabid fans.

"Having come here with New York and been hated by them, it will be great to have them on my side," he said. "It's always a great atmosphere here and it's a good place to be.

"My job is to play football so this move was a no-brainer. I want to play. I didn't want to take two or three months off and just have a long vacation. Coming here I know I can compete for a place. I have got a good work ethic and I will do everything I can to prove to the coach that I can make a valuable contribution."

Carver also will welcome back seven of nine internationals to the team who missed last week's game.

Back are Greg Sutton, Amado Guevara, Jim Brennan, Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Carlos Ruiz and Julius James.

Carl Robinson and Jarrod Smith are expected by the first of next week.


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