Saturday, April 7, 2007
CHICAGO - The Chicago Fire expect to be just as happy with Cuauhtemoc Blanco as the Los Angeles Galaxy hope to be with David Beckham.
The rush of excitement coming with Blanco's arrival to the Fire has to last until July, when the iconic Mexican striker is expected to join MLS.
And it just might.
A day after more than 5,000 fans attended a hastily planned welcome for him at the Fire's Toyota Park home in southwest suburban Bridgeview, Blanco signed a contract that, at the end of June, will end his association with Club America of the Mexican First Division and bring him to the United States.
"I wouldn't call him the Mexican Beckham," John Guppy, the Fire's president and CEP, said Tuesday before the team's annual preseason luncheon at a downtown hotel. "But I did love that sign at Toyota Park last night that said, 'Who needs Beckham? We have Temo.' He's very unique."
Blanco, a 34-year-old veteran of two World Cups and an Olympics, has 176 career goals scored (including 31 for Mexico's national team) since 1995. He's known for his charisma, original passing and scoring abilities, plus an occasional temper display.
He also had ACL surgery five years ago and has dealt with a series of lesser injuries in recent seasons, as many players do, Guppy said. Blanco also was left off Mexico's most recent World Cup team.
No worries, Fire captain Chris Armas said. He compared Blanco with Hristo Stoichkov in terms of ability and style and Peter Nowak in terms of impact.
"We had a good team already, but it'll be nice to have a credible centerpiece," said Armas, a member of the team since inaugural campaign in 1998.
Through a Spanish interpreter, Blanco said he wants to bring championships to Chicago, which previously won the MLS Cup in '98. Promising to return their love, Blanco still could not quite grasp the reaction of Fire fans at Toyota Park, where mere hundreds were expected.
"I'm very surprised with how I've been [received]; I did not know that was possible," Blanco said. "I'll come here to work hard and give the fans grand satisfaction."
Chicago's large Hispanic community - about 1.8 million strong and 85 percent Mexican - could embrace Blanco even tighter.
"He's waking up the Hispanic fan in Chicago that, perhaps, wasn't coming to the game before," Fire midfielder Diego Gutierrez said. "He's a guy that can still play; he can score goals, he can set up goals. He's still a magnificent player. On the other hand, his personality and his character - the way he incites and engages the fans - I think is going to help."
Blanco cannot play here until after the season ends for Club America and the CONCACAF Gold Cup final - which is set for Soldier Field - is played in late June.
The delay is upsetting, and results probably won't be instant come July, but Blanco will be worth it, Fire coach David Sarachan said.
"We're adding someone who can make the difference, the final pass, the final play," Sarachan said. "I think our guys will appreciate having him on the field."
Former Fire coach Bob Bradley, currently the U.S. national team boss, said Blanco is a difference-maker in two ways.
"He's a special player, capable of making the kind of plays that determine matches," Bradley said. "He will bring, also, a great deal of attention to the league.
"Sometimes, we don't always tell our story well enough and to bring in players like Beckham and Blanco, they bring the spotlight on so many of the other good things that have been happening."
As the Galaxy did with Beckham, the Fire used its Designated Player spot for Blanco - which means $400,000 of his salary counts against the salary cap and is to be paid equally by all MLS investors. The rest of his salary - a "confidential" detail, Guppy said - will be paid by the Fire. Blanco is under contract through 2009.
The Fire open the 2007 season at home against the New England Revolution at 7:30 p.m. CT Saturday. Blanco's first game could be July 1 against the Colorado Rapids.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
By: Luis Arroyave
March 10, 2007 11:44 AM
CHICAGO - As rumors of the Fire signing Mexican superstar Cuauhtemoc Blanco heat up, so do the debates between fans as to whether the Fire should want him.
At 34, Cuauhtemoc (pronounced Quahk-temo) has been slowed by knee injuries in recent years.
But Blanco still is considered one of his country's most dangerous scoring threats. He currently is second in scoring on his team, Club America, with four goals. Blanco's passes are crisp and he plays with the sort of flare and creativity MLS needs.
It was Blanco who tucked the ball between his feet and hopped past a defender during the 2002 World Cup.
The Fire's Justin Mapp is one of the few MLS players known for his artistry with the ball and, with Blanco, he could give the Fire one of the strongest and most entertaining midfields in the league.
On the other hand, Blanco wouldn't have as much time to create in MLS because defenders are more persistent and aggressive than they are in Mexico - a quality that could frustrate him.
As soccer fans already know, Blanco has been known to get frustrated easily.
He has pushed a reporter whose question he didn't like, made obscene gestures to fans and was suspended from playing in South American tournaments for a year after instigating a fight with an opposing team during the 2004 Copa Libertadores tournament.
His public feud with former Mexico coach Ricardo LaVolpe reportedly cost him a spot on the team's 2006 World Cup roster.
Blanco's fans and teammates praise his competitiveness and his win-at-all-cost personality. Opponents say he's a diver, whiner and cheap-shot artist.
''He would pretend like he was dying sometimes,'' U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan said after his team's 2-1 loss to Mexico in 2005.
''Blanco was being an idiot. That's how he plays.''
While Blanco is a villain to many, he's an icon in the eyes of Club America fans.
He is a hometown hero who grew up an America supporter in Mexico City, signed with the club when he was 17 and spent the majority of his career with it.
Not only is America one of the most successful clubs in Mexican league history, it's also one of the most popular. And who better than America's most beloved player to keep the buzz going in MLS after the Los Angeles Galaxy's signing of David Beckham?
This is why MLS wants Blanco in the league so badly. This is why Fire President John Guppy flew to Mexico last weekend to meet with Blanco, a source told the Tribune.
He could be a draw in for the Fire. Last year's Fire game against Chivas USA, an MLS club with Mexican ties, made for one of the loudest, most exciting soccer atmospheres all season at Toyota Park
But can Blanco thrive in a league where other Mexican superstars have failed to make a significant impact - including Luis Hernandez, Carlos Hermosillo, and Jorge Campos?
Can Fire coach Dave Sarachan, not known for ruling with an iron fist, control one of soccer's most controversial figures?
And if Blanco does stir up a little drama, is that necessarily a bad thing for a team in need of exposure?
No matter what, some Fire fans will insist they never could cheer for Blanco.
But didn't Bulls fans once say the same things about Dennis Rodman?
(c) 2007, Chicago Tribune.
CARSON, Calif. - Chris Albright came off the bench to lead the Los Angeles Galaxy to a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer (MLS) exhibition play from the Home Depot Center. The Fire are 1-1 on their west coast trip, having defeated Chivas USA on Saturday.
Albright's left-footed laser from 35 yards out provided the decisive goal in the 66th minute. Albright, who had entered the game just minutes earlier, trapped a loose ball in traffic and launched a low shot that snuck inside the far post.
The Fire staked an early lead on a successful Chris Rolfe penalty kick in the 14th minute. Rolfe registered his first preseason goal by going high and to the left of goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
Los Angeles evened the contest in the 22nd minute when Josh Gardner's free kick found Tyrone Marshall deep in the box, who headed a shot past goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
"I don't think we looked real sharp," stated Fire coach Dave Sarachan. "But as I've said before, we're not so much concerned about game results, it's more about our ball movement, possession and conditioning. We're working with different combinations and getting our timing down, you can always draw positives from a match like this."
Chicago (4-3-1) takes on UCLA this Friday (March 9) at 10:00 a.m. PT at the HDC before flying home that night.
Notes: Coach Sarachan kept his starting XI intact from the Chivas game ... Wednesday marks the one-month countdown to the Fire's season opener against New England (April 7) at TOYOTA PARK.
CHI - Chris Rolfe (penalty kick) 14
LA - Tyrone Marshall (Josh Gardner) 22
LA - Chris Albright (unassisted) 66
Fire Lineup (3-4-3): GK-Matt Pickens (Nick Noble 59), D-C.J. Brown (Dasan Robinson 46), D-Jim Curtin (Osei Telesford 59), D-Gonzalo Segares (Daniel Woolard 59), MF-Logan Pause (Jerson Monteiro 46), MF-Chris Armas (Derek Kosek 59), MF-Diego Gutierrez (Bakary Soumare 46), MF-Ivan Guerrero (Mike Banner 46), F-Justin Mapp (Thiago 46), F-Pascal Bedrossian (Chad Barrett 12, Mark Totten 75), F-Chris Rolfe (Calen Carr 59).
Galaxy Lineup (4-3-3): GK-Joe Cannon, D-Mike Randolph, D-Tyrone Marshall, D-Ty Harden (Troy Roberts 59), D-Ian Russell (Chris Albright 62), MF-Josh Gardner (Gavin Glinton 46), MF-Kevin Harmes (Peter Vagenas 62), MF-John Thorrington (Nathan Sturgis 46), F-Nate Jaqua (Kyle Martino 46), F-Santino Quaranta (Cobi Jones 59), F-Quavas Kirk (Darren Currie 46).
CHI - Pascal Bedrossian (caution) 10
LA - Santino Quaranta (caution) 21
Referee: Ramon Hernandez
Referee Assistants: Fabio Tovar, Modesto Guillen
Sunday, March 4, 2007
Friday, March 2, 2007
Sunday, February 18, 2007
The Fire lineup was:
Fire Lineup (3-5-2): GK-Matt Pickens (Josh Saunders 45); D-Osei Telesford (Daniel Woolard 63), D-Jim Curtin (Jeff Curtin 59), D-C.J. Brown (Jordan Russolillo 60), M-Logan Pause (Erik Hort 61), M-Chris Armas (Derek Kosek 45), M-Diego Gutierrez (Bakary Soumare 56), M-Pascal Bedrossian (Calen Carr 45), M-Ivan Guerrero (Brian Plotkin 60), F-Chris Rolfe (Jerson Monteiro 59), F-Justin Mapp (Asmir Pervan 63).