Ridge Mahoney examines MLS's first major signing of 2008
The deal in Dallas is done; former Mexican international defender Duilio Davino has signed a two-year contract. He's no longer with the national team, having last played for Mexico in a friendly against Paraguay prior to the 2006 World Cup, for which he wasn't selected. True, this indicates he's not quite as strong or fast as he was while playing 84 times for his country and 323 league games for Club America, yet it also means - unless he's recalled - that he won't be tied up with qualifiers and the sometimes staggering load of friendlies piled onto the national team.
He turns 32 in March and made it clear when he arrived in Dallas last weekend to discuss a contract that money wasn't the primary issue.
Thus, FCD didn't use a Designated Player slot to sign him - no word yet on his salary -- yet will certainly give the crowds at Pizza Hut Park and around the league a bit of a boost, having played 10 years for Las Aguilas, which has followers in many American cities.
And he's still got the savvy of playing 14 years in league teeming with talented Mexican, Central American, and South American attackers.
He debuted in 1994 for his first club, UAG ("Tecos") 11 days after his 18th birthday, and played his first game for Mexico less than two years later at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Last month, Club America released him after a decade of service during which he played in the World Cup, Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana, CONCACAF Champions Cup, and yes, last year's SuperLiga.
Both his parents are Argentine. His father, a former professional player, moved the family to Mexico to coach Leon. Duilio was born in Leon, Guanajuato. His older brother Flavio played professionally in Mexico as well.
This rich soccer heritage won't mean jack if he can't handle the travel, the heat, the refs, the postseason pressure, and the sometimes chaotic play of MLS. And he's by no means an all-time great defender in the tradition of Rafael Marquez or Claudio Suarez. This move isn't a slam-dunk.
But little by little, MLS is attracting more and more players steeped in the game from their earliest days, survivors of very harsh, perhaps ruthless, processes of testing and eliminating candidates, yet still capable of competent play. To the sometimes frenetic pace of MLS they bring experience, guile, vision, and a zeal to win honed by long years of fierce competition.
Last year, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Suarez, and Davino's former Club America teammate, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, proved that age isn't everything.
It will be up to Coach Steve Morrow, his FCD teammates, and Davino (5-foot-11, 165 pounds) himself to avoid being exposed for pace (Landon Donovan) or overpowered in the air (Brian Ching). It will be interesting to see how a former Northern Ireland international defender fares with an Argentine counterpart who grew up in Mexico, but sometimes it's the esoteric, not the obvious, that works in MLS.