It was supposed to be Cuauhtémoc’s last appearance with the Tri. Last fall in Chiapas, Rafa Marquez handed him the captain’s armband when he subbed in for some minutes vs. Canada. At the end of the game, the players walked across the field with a banner thanking him for all of his years of excellence. There was a fireworks show. Even the ref made sure his name would go in the books with a yellow. The next time he would dress in green, it would be his retirement exhibition.
Ever since then, Mexico has been awful. A grand total of 1 point was earned in 5 away qualifiers. The high-priced Suede who was supposed to make Mexico better made them look worse. The fireman who quelled Mexico’s last qualifying crisis in 2001 was brought back. But back then it was Blanco who made the difference on the field. He single handedly saved Mexico from elimination with a second half brace in Kingston. He can make a difference again, but this time he won’t have to bear the brunt of the weight. He shouldn’t have to.
In 8 games with the Fire this year, he has 1 goal and 5 assists. At 36, Blanco is just not a guy who can give you a full 110 in 90 minutes. But as sure as as summers in Texas last 9 months, one simple touch from him can change the fortunes of a game. He is quite simply the best Mexican National Team player in history, and if he has a little gas in the tank, then there is no reason not to use him.
There is precedence: Mexico’s greatest player ever was robbed of his world cup when he was at his peak in 1990. But Hugo Sanchez came back in 1993 in his mid 30’s to help Mexico earn CONCACAF’s only ticket to the world cup. It was his equalizer vs. the 2nd place Canadians that put Mexico into the world cup. And he sealed the win with his assist to Abuelo Cruz late in the game. Sanchez went on to have a great summer with Mexico in their first ever Copa America, where they eventually lost 2-1 to Argentina in the final.
Why Blanco? Why now? Because Mexico just hasn’t produced a player that matches his immense talent. Because He can mentor the youngsters who are tabbed to be his successors. He can be a calming influence on Nery. Because He can still make that one pass, that one move that no one else can see.
Because he has what very few players in Mexico have: it!
And Mexico desperately needs it.