Monday, December 31, 2007

Soccer Player of the Year

I can't argue with the Daily Breeze picking David Beckham as their LA Sports Person of the Year. I remember reading an article in 2005 by the writer of this piece, Kevin Modesti, where he bemoaned the city's lack of titles recently, even though the Galaxy had just won their second MLS championship. He didn't mention the team probably because he never even thought of them. I never saw him in the pressbox at the Home Depot Center until Beckham came along. So Becks has had a major impact in things like that.

I'm partial, however, to what is actually accomplished on the field, in addition to the off-field impact. I think I'd put Cuauhtemoc Blanco as king of the hill for 2007. He played well for three teams, Mexico's national squad, Club America for half the year, and the Chicago Fire for the final part of the MLS season. In my latest article, I cover some of the ways his arrival had an impact.

Beckham couldn't manage to do that because of his injuries.

Who else but Cuauh could generate production of the combo ClubAmerica/Fire jersey? Who else could get little Mexican soccer shops all over the U.S. to stock an MLS jersey? Beckham's isn't in half the ones I stop by, but Blanco's always is. A whole different set of people talked to me about MLS after Blanco signed than when Beckham signed. Most importantly, because Blanco played, they watched games, they came to games, and they started talking about the teams and the players themselves (even if it was to bemoan Chad Barrett's finishing -although, I remember one guy saying with a wink to his Central American friend, "Barrett al menos sera mejor que 'Chope") That's the sort of change in behavior that could never take place when people were dismissing MLS out of hand. Blanco triggered that.

I was still a bit skeptical of how real it was until I saw it first hand. For all their laidback reputation, LA sports crowds are fairly loyal - I've never seen a stadium erupt like the HDC did when Blanco scored for the Fire against Chivas USA.

1 comment:

jtgulls said...

AC, Blanco did change the atmosphere at Toyota Park. While the Section 8 fans are into every match from start to finish, the rest of the stadium was usually less interested in the proceedings on the field. That all changed when Blancp arrived. AND, there were about 8,000 more fans at each match as well.

Given that there are so many Mexican Americans here in Chicago, Blanco was noticed by fans around town. It wasn't quite the anonyminity that most Fire players are able to enjoy.

Can't wait for that first home match of the year ... be nice to have a manager on board.