Blanco and the DP Effect
My story in Sunday's dead-tree edition is about Blanco and the resurgent Fire. Many of you will deride me for covering hype over substance, and will argue that Blanco has occasionally--Thursday, for example--been a dud on the field. Well, maybe. And there are obviously lots of factors in play with the Fire's rise from the ashes, if I can destroy that particular metaphor.
But here's one stat that jumped out at me, after some quick research last week. There are currently five designated players in MLS, not counting those who were grandfathered in: Blanco, Beckham, Angel, Reyna and Denilson. Blanco's the only one whose team has a winning record in MLS competition when he's on the field. That's a pretty striking fact, as far as I'm concerned. Blanco has figured in eight goals through nine MLS matches, and but for that disastrous injury-time goal at Dallas on Thursday, the Fire would have had more wins in his nine matches than in their previous 16.
Like I said, there were the two other international additions, the coaching change, some healed injuries and the rest, but at a minimum Blanco seems to have helped inject a spark into the Fire's locker room. Sorry, I'll stop with the Fire language, I promise.
In the meantime, as we wait for today's match, here are some bonus quotes on Blanco and the DP effect, after the jump. Interesting to hear your thoughts on the Blanco signing; worth the $2.6 mil thus far, or not? There will be a separate thread for gameday thoughts, coming soon. And no, I'm not in Chicago.
United GM Dave Kasper on D.C.'s lack of a DP: "There's a great deal of planning that goes along with it, not just planning of your roster, but what position you're going to bring the designated player in, how you're going to play, the qualities the designated player brings, but most important the availability. It takes a lot of time to plan, advanced planning. We do quite a bit of pre-planning, and we knew going into last season what we were looking to accomplish in terms of player personnel changes for this year. So we had a plan, and we put that plan in motion last fall. Luciano was obviously a part of it. Fred, trading Freddy, trading Alecko, all these pieces that we had started to plan last fall were put into place, and to now suddenly do a 180 and change your thinking, there wasn't enough time."
Kasper on 2008 and the DP: "It's something we continue to look at very closely for the future. Obviously we have a great team, a team that's positioned very well right now, so we continue to analyze that and we'll sit down and take another close look at it at the end of the season."
Kasper on a certain Argentinian who maybe could be a DP in the future, theoretically: "There's nothing really to comment on."
Tom Soehn on Blanco: "Like everybody else, we're going to close him, kill his passing lanes, hopefully get after him so he's his head down, the normal things. I don't think it's any different."
Troy Perkins on the Blanco Effect: "Obviously with his signing, the first star-struck idea was 'All the Mexicans know who he is and they're in Chicago,' and with him signing there it was a big draw. But the overall product, I think, has got to be better to keep those fans coming back, to keep them interested. They get tired of seeing Blanco, the same old thing every week. Certainly he hasn't had the effect of a David Beckham. I think really only David Beckham has been a real star that's brought people out."
Perkins on DP's and D.C.: "Instead of expecting one player to bring something special, we expect all 11 players to do something special. We're not going to rely on that, and I don't think we ever will rely on that one player. We're in it for the quality of the total product on the field, not just one guy, not just that star-studded poster child."
Brian Carroll on the same: "I think it varies from club to club. And I think designated players can certainly help, and if you look around the league at some of the designated players, some of them have really contributed to their team's performance. And Blanco's another guy that certainly raises the level at Chicago. Just because they did it and we didn't, doesn't mean one way is right and another way is wrong."
Perkins on containing Blanco: "The biggest thing he poses is just that ability to play balls anywhere. It's a resemblance to Etcheverry and his ability just to find players with balls and options that you don't really think of sometimes. You've got to be on your toes with him and be honest. We can't cheat, or else he's gonna catch you. Respect that fact, but at the same case we've got to get after him a little bit and don't let him have time and space to play."
Ben Olsen on Blanco: "He's one of those guys that as a teammate you love, and as an opponent he's one of those guys that can get under peoples' skin. But I've got no problem with that guy."
Jaime Moreno on Blanco: "Forget about Blanco, whoever it is, just take care of everyone."
Chicago President and CEO John Guppy on the acquisition: "Clearly one of the significant reasons that we're playing better is the impact of Blanco. I mean, he's a supremely skilled player that brings qualities to the field that very rarely are seen in Major League Soccer. His ability to see the game, and the vision he has on the field I think are second to none. His passing is tremendous, he obviously knows how to score goals, and above that I think he's just brought a lot of confidence to all the other players, which has helped make it a better team."
Guppy on the buzz in Chicago: "You just feel it. It's out there. You'll overhear conversations in the community, where people are talking about the Fire. If we had a 50-person youth soccer group coming to our game before, now that 50-person group has grown to 65 or 75, just because there's a greater interest in the team, in part because of what he's brought to us in the past couple of months."
Guppy on the ethnic impact (Don't forget, today is Hispanic Heritage Day at the Park): "He's just helped make us a more entertaining team in general, and I think soccer fans, no matter where they're from, are appreciating that. Because again, the team's playing better soccer, we're playing more entertaining soccer, we're playing winning soccer. You don't have to be a Mexican soccer fan to appreciate that."
ESPN Deportes's Fernando Palomo: "He's very competitive, and he's not going to give everybody the chance to talk bad about him. He's not going to give anyone the chance to second guess his decision or the league's decision to bring him here. Criticism has driven him from the beginning, that's just his nature. I think he competes here with the sense of responsibility, the full sense of responsibility, I guess, knowing that if he fails, he's going to hear it. And he doesn't want to hear that."
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