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Thursday, February 29

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Fire Mon Apr 13 2009

It's Time To Start Blanco

Maybe with a lineup already missing the defensive prowess of John Thorrington and Wilman Conde, Fire coach Denis Hamlet didn't feel he could risk starting Cuahtemoc Blanco in an away game to the San Jose Earthquakes. He certainly had reason to be concerned about the defense, as replacement defenders Brandon Prideaux and Dasan Robinson both looked very rusty.

Or maybe he's right in his assessment that Blanco isn't ready to go 90 minutes. There were times in Saturday's match it looked doubtful Blanco could even go 45.

But if Hamlet, after watching the Chicago Fire play the first half in San Jose without Blanco and the second half with him, is still hesitant to play the Mexican star then he might just be the fun-hating monster some people make him out to be.

It wasn't a spectacular performance from Blanco. In fact, he had a few uncharacteristically bad touches on the ball. But Blanco proved he can help the team defensively in a different way from a prototypical hard-working, hard tackling MLS midfielder. When he's on the field The Fire are much better at keeping the ball - which makes it pretty hard for the opposition to launch attacks.

That's not to mention all the things Blanco brings offensively. At halftime the Fire were trailing against San Jose 2-1. They turned that around in the second half and ended with a 3-3 tie - San Jose's lone second half goal coming thanks to a dubious penalty. And not that statistics matter that much, but the Fire did outshoot San Jose 12-3 in the second half - which says something about who was bossing the game.

Chris Rolfe, the other player unexpectedly starting from the bench this season, came on to score a spectacular late equalizer. It's only a matter of time before he reclaims his spot in the starting lineup along with Blanco, though it's going to force some tough decisions from Denis Hamlet.

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