The Season of the Superstar in MLS

Overshadowed by David Beckham’s debut perhaps, but Major League Soccer’s second biggest star has just made his first appearance for the Chicago Fire and put on a dazzling display.

Mexico’s Cuauhtmoc Blanco scored in the Fire’s 1-1 tie with Scotland’s Celtic in an exhibition game today in Chicago that was shown on Fox Soccer Channel, but that wasn’t the half of it.

The 34-year-old former Club America striker tormented defenders, made an audacious back heel and in the space of the hour or so he was on the field generally helped dispel bad memories of such highly-touted countrymen as Luis Hernandez and Carlos Hermosillo who never lived up to their reputations in MLS.

The league has been rightly criticized in the past for a lack of star names, but is making amends for that this season.

This afternoon’s four televised MLS games showcases some of the high-profile players who have joined the league this season.

On Direct Kick right now, beloved former Boca Juniors star Guillermo Barros Schelotto has just scored his second goal of the game for an improving Columbus Crew against expansion team Toronto FC. The 34-year-old Argentine now has four goals and seven assists in 13 MLS games.

Over on Telefutura, the free-spending New York Red Bulls are up 1-0 against DC United. New York is home to the MVP of Thursday’s All-Star game, Juan Pablo Angel, who is third in the league in scoring with nine goals in 11 MLS games (although the former Aston Villa player isn’t in the starting lineup today).

New York also signed former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna from Manchester City to add to a roster that includes a revitalized Clint Mathis and rapidly emerging youngster Jozy Altidore.

Add the likes of recent Galaxy signing Carlos Pavon, 33, the Honduran veteran; Chivas USA’s Cuban defector Maykel Galindo (seven goals and four assists in 15 games); and D.C. United’s Brazilian striker Luciano Emilio (10 goals in 16 games) and the number of impact players with flair who give armchair fans a real reason to tune in has increased dramatically.

For more on Blanco, here’s the Wikipedia entry.

Here’s what the same source says about Barros Schelotto.

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