Let's salute the Chicago Fire for picking the absolute perfect Designated Player.
From back when the Chicago Tribune covered soccer, we recall that Nery Castillo once set very great store on playing in the Old World. Now, he's following in the footsteps of Cootiemac Blanco.
I realize I predicted that Blanco would be a trainwreck that we would tell our grandchildren about, and he turned out to be acceptable. At least, to Fire fans, whose opinion I suppose mattered the most. I keep pointing out that the Blanco Era corresponded with the Fire's first Trophy-Free Era, but then again, compared to the Beckham Era, Cootie was Di Stefano, Puskas, and Superman.
So I'm a little hesitant to predict that Nery Castillo is going to enter the pantheon of Denilson, Davino and Landin when it comes to making DP stand for Disastrous Player.
But only a little hesitant. He's only going to MLS because after that little rant from 2009, he doesn't have the berries to face going back to Mexico. Just to put that rant in context – after that press conference, Mexico won its next game. At home, against Costa Rica, sure, but at the time it was doubtful whether Mexico would be able to defend its impregnable Azteca.
Of course, Mexico lost its next two on the road to Honduras and Salvador, Sven-Goran Eriksson was canned, and Nery Castillo's career path continued to duplicate the ski jump of the "agony of defeat" guy.
Blanco was also in his thirties when the Fire signed him. Castillo is in his alleged prime.
And, historically, Mexican players have been huge MLS disappointments. Blanco and Claudio Suarez have been the cream of the crop, which means that Mexico has contributed about as much to MLS so far as St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (Blanco sold more shirts than Ezra Hendrickson, though.)
If Castillo bucks the trend, then great. I think it's been downhill for the Fire since they let Peter Wilt go, so having a respectable team in Chicago again will help the league. People talk about how important it is to have successful teams in New York and Los Angeles, but show me a prosperous American sports league without a very significant Chicago presence.
And if Castillo turns out to be a typical Designated Player – even better. This is MLS, and the S stands for Schadenfreude. Watching big names crash and burn is one of the true joys of the league. Castillo is probably, apart from Beckham and Blanco, the easiest DP to cheer against yet – including Thierry Henry.
The best Designated Players are the ones you cheer against, not for. Which is why I'm hoping against hope that the Red Bulls add Marquez, and why as a Galaxy fan I shudder to think what albatross AEG is going to saddle us with.
I'll just start the rumor that it's Kaka. Kaka's a very public Christian, of course, and Phil Anschutz is a very serious evangelical. So I predict that AEG will bring in Kaka to spread the both the gospel of soccer and the gospel of, er, the Gospel.
…either that, or Checketts got the gender wrong, and Marta's coming home.