Toronto FC Eastern Conference rivals, the Chicago Fire , are set to become the third MLS team to sign a Designated Player, as the long rumored signing of Mexican Superstar Cuauhtemoc Blanco will be announced Monday. The Fire have been dumping salary all off-season, known to be courting a Designated Player. The Fire had some disappointing turnouts at their beautiful new Soccer Specific Stadium in the Chicago suburbs, and the once well supported and proud club under fan friendly General manager Peter Wilt, are looking for a boost at the gate. The move for Blanco, concludes speculation that has lasted the entire off season, linking numerous high profile names with the Fire, including the likes of Zinadine Zidane, Pavel Nedved, and Patrick Berger.
Mexican Superstars have historically not lived up to their potential in the MLS. While Jorge Campos helped lend credibility to the Los Angeles Galaxy amongst the enormous Mexican population in that market during the league's first two seasons, he was not with the Galaxy on a full time basis, and his commitment was sometimes questioned. Campos then moved on to expansion team Chicago Fire in 1998, where again his name was used to create a stir in the Mexican population in that market. After losing his place in the team while away in a successful World Cup run in France, his days in the MLS were numbered. The Galaxy brought in Carlos Hermosillo, and Luis Hernandez in subsequent years, yet they never lived up to their salary on the field, with sometimes questionable work ethic and commitment, and their drawing power at the gate was surely less than MLS expected given their star power. I think its safe to say that Chivas USA has yet to receive a huge contribution from its higher profile Mexican players such as Ramon Ramirez who has been basically been injured his entire time in California, and Francisco Palencia never did get rolling. Yet veteran Claudio Suarez did earn a place in Germany last year. Chivas USA hasn't hardly been a great success at the box office either.
It will be interesting to see what sort of attitude Blanco brings with him to the Fire, and how much he really has left in his tank. That said I don't see this ending well in Chciago. My prediction - after Toronto FC soundly defeat the Fire on May 12th at BMO, Dave Sarachan will be the first coach to get fired this season, with GM John Guppy to follow in the off season. Blanco will not return for 2008.