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Designated Players Face-Off at Toyota Park

By Todd McClamroch in News on Sep 14, 2007 1:05PM

2007_09_14_blanco_fire.jpgOnly four of the thirteen Major League Soccer teams took advantage of Major League Soccer's new Designated Player Rule, made most famous by the signing of David Beckham by the Los Angeles Galaxy, signing a total of five players. This weekend, arguably the two most impactful designated players, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Juan Pablo Angel, will match up at Toyota Park. Blanco has played just seven games but has helped the Fire to earn 13 points and go 4-1-2 while tallying two goals and four assists. ESPN Deportes La Revista recently named the Fire midfielder the “Top Latino Athlete in the United States”.

The Fire's opponent on Saturday, the New York Red Bulls, is the only team to sign two players utilizing the Designated Player Rule. The Red Bulls are thrilled with the success of the Juan Pablo Angel acquisition. Angel, who is surely a leading candidate for the league MVP award, is tied with Kansas City's Eddie Johnson as the second most prolific goal scorer with 14 goals this season. The Red Bulls also acquired former United States midfielder Claudio Reyna, though his season has been plagued with Injuries. Chicagoist spoke with Red Bulls coach Bruce Arena and he had this to say about the Reyna acquisition, "All fairness to Claudio he has not been healthy". Arena feels as the season plays out, Reyna's real value will be determined late in the season as he returns to form.

The New York Red Bulls, who have lost their last three road games, will have both their designated players available to them for Saturday's game at Toyota Park, though the Red Bulls' second and third highest scorers. Jozy Altidore (8 goals) and Clint Mathis (6 goals), are listed as day-to-day.

The Fire come into Saturday's game off an important road victory over the Columbus Crew that moved the Fire into Major League's Soccer's final playoff spot if the season ended today. But the season does not end today and the Fire, who are four points behind 7th place Kansas City(33 pts.) and just a single point ahead of struggling Colorado(28 pts.) and Columbus(28 pts.), need to secure a few victories in their last seven games to extend their season.

The Fire (29 pts.), arguably a team that seems to be building momentum, has a tough schedule to round out the season, with two games against league-leading DC United(49 pts.) and games with Chivas USA (43 pts.), New England (42 pts.), FC Dallas(39 pts.), Los Angeles (17 pts.) and this weekend's opponent the New York Red Bulls (36 pts.).

The Chicago Fire are expecting a near sell out crowd for their fourth to last home game of the regular season.

Photo by Chicagoist_Todd (Flickr).