02 April 2007

Major League Soccer goes "naco"

Temperamental Mexican striker and naco extraordinaire Cuauhtemoc Blanco signed with the Chicago Fire of the MLS, taking his oft-controversial act north of the border. Blanco previous starred with Mexico-based Club America, a soccer team akin to the Oakland Raiders - you either love it or hate it. In fact, after America won a controversial championship in 2005, the team invited fans to "hate me more." (In fairness, America wins more often these days than the Raiders, although Club America owner Televisa is surely more nefarious than Al Davis or any bad-boy Raider legend.)

In many ways, Blanco epitomizes all that's wrong with Mexican soccer. A talented player, who rescued Mexico from a near-elimination during 2002 World Cup qualifying, Blanco played much his career in Mexico, where he earned a good living, but was never properly challenged. (Think big fish in a small pond.) He joined a Spanish team briefly, but quickly returned to a cushy spot in Mexico. Sure enough, he was never outstanding in the World Cup - and his equally coddled Mexico-based teammates couldn't pick up the slack.

Now with his career on the decline, he jumps to the MLS, where star power - however fading - means more than talent. Adios Cuauhtemoc. I for one won't be watching, although some will.

ESPNsoccernet columnist Steve Davis said of the whole sordid saga:

"Watching the Chicago Fire's high-stakes pursuit of Cuauhtemoc Blanco takes me back to that weird, low-speed O.J. chase of years back. Just like then, I keep thinking to myself: I'll watch this unfold because it's interesting, but there is no way this thing finishes with a happy ending."

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