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Friday, September 26, 2008

Ex-QPR Gino Padula Doing Well in the American MLS

MLS/Craig Merz - Padula a quiet leader for Crew
Columbus has 8-0-1 record with Argentinean defender in lineup
Gino Padula has missed nearly two-thirds of the season with an injury, but has still had an impact for the Crew.

COLUMBUS -- Good luck charm or just plain good? Maybe a little of both for the lesser known of the two Argentinean players for the Columbus Crew.
While forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto has put up gaudy numbers with six goals and a league-best 18 assists, the case could be made that defender Gino Padula is the team's most valuable player despite missing nearly two-thirds of the season.
- The Crew are 8-0-1 when Padula is in the lineup, including a 5-0-1 mark since his return Aug. 16 from injuries that had sidelined him for more than three months. Columbus is 6-6-4 when he doesn't play.
- "This is a good thing coming back to the team and winning games," Padula said. "The whole team has done a great job all season, not just the last six or seven games."
- Speaking of injuries, Schelotto will likely miss his third consecutive match Saturday at New England because of a left hamstring strain.
- "He's probably doubtful for the game," coach Sigi Schmid said after Thursday's practice. "We'll make a decision tomorrow and decide whether to take him or not."
- Having a healthy Padula defending helps ease the loss of an offensive player such as Schelotto. Padula brings stability to the left back spot by being solid, not flashy, and calm on the ball. He isn't careless with his passes or in his tackles.
- "He brings a lot of experience at left back with his possession and good talking out there. He helps settle us down and keeps us going when we come out on his side with ball," defensive midfielder Brian Carroll said. "He came in and was a little unlucky with the injuries but recovered from that and has done well to position himself to get ready for the pace and style of the league. The experience of where he played before he was here gave him all the tools needed to play well here."
- Columbus signed Padula from Montpellier HSC of the French Ligue 2 on March 24 and after sitting out the first two matches while his work permit was approved, he made his MLS debut April 12 against Chivas. He went 90 minutes in his first two games before suffering a knee injury in the April 26 game vs. Houston.
- He was one the comeback trail in mid-June when he strained his hamstring during a reserve match and missed a total of 14 league games.
- "It's hard when you're injured because you want to come back as soon as possible. When you couldn't play it's very hard, you feel sad," he said.
- Making it more difficult was transitioning to a new league, team, city and country.
- "I know this league now. I've watched so many games," said Padula. "I know my teammates. It's very important because when I was injured I did not train with them. Now, I enjoy the moment because there are only five games left. If we win the five games we finish first in the table."
- The Crew had a revolving door at left back in Padula's absence with Danny O'Rourke, Ryan Junge, Ezra Hendrickson and Jed Zayner filling in. Padula has played all but nine minutes in the past six games.
- "He helps us at left back. That was an area where we looked at the young guys," Schmid said. "Last year it was a committee of people. We played Stefani (Miglioranzi) there. We played Ezra there. We played Danny O'Rourke there and we were auditioning people. We added Gino at the start of the year because of that.
- "He helps us because he is an experienced defender. Positionally, his play is pretty good. He's a good passer of the ball out of the back and that helps us."
- Padula, 32, began his career with Argentinean side River Plate in 1996 before moving to Club Atletico Huracan the following year. He played in Spain in 1998 then went to English football from 1999 to 2006 with stops below the Premiership level in Bristol, Walsall, Wigan, Queens' Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest.
- His resume is exceeded on the backline only by that of U.S. World Cup veteran Frankie Hejduk on the right side.
- "It's a good combination right now," Hejduk said. "You have two experienced guys in the back. We've got two in the middle in Chad (Marshall) and Danny who are experienced players but are young and hungry. Especially the last few games our understanding of one another has gotten better and better. We all feel confident playing with each other. For a back four, that's what has to happen. If you know each other and are used to each other and know when to drop and you're on the same page there, that's what a good defense is all about."
- Hejduk said it's easy to see why the Crew have so much success when Padula is playing.
- "He knows how to play the position. He's been a left back his whole life so he knows the ins and outs of it. We all feel -- myself, Chad and Dan -- more confident in our play with him back there," said Hejduk. "We can play through him to get the ball out of the back rather than kicking it long all the time. With him and myself on the outside we can play a bit more. It also helps to have a guy whose naturally left-footed on the left side. A lot of times this year we've been asking guys who are right-footed to play out there. It makes it a little more difficult."
- Padula didn't know what to make of MLS prior to coming to Columbus but the league and his new home have grown on him.
- "Before I got here I thought in America you have too many sports; the fans wouldn't go out to Crew Stadium but we have 15, 18, 19,000 at games," he said. "This is very important. When we play the playoffs maybe the stadium will be full. The fans help out a lot. This league will improve a lot. It is a very good league right now.
- "I am happy here. My family is happy. That's very important to me. It's a new experience in my life. I would like to stay here a very long time." MLS

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