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Blanco busy with Santos
by Ridge Mahoney, December 5th, 2008 7AM
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[MEXICO] Defending champion Santos, with 22-year-old New Mexico product Edgar Castillo and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who is on loan duty from Chicago, could only manage a 0-0 tie at home against Toluca in the first leg of their semifinal.

Toluca can advance to the Apertura 2008 final with a tie in the second leg because of its superior regular-season record.

Cruz Azul won the first leg of its semifinal first leg, 3-1, against Atlante, which hosts the second leg. They meet again on Saturday while Santos travels to Toluca on Sunday. (U.S. TV broadcast information was not available at press time.)

Blanco had scored a goal and created another in a 2-1 quarterfinal win against San Luis. He converted a penalty kick in the 82nd-minute and a few minutes later his pass to Walter Jimenez led to Emmanuel Luduena's goal as Santos advanced 5-2 on aggregate after it had fallen behind in the second leg, 1-0.

Blanco, 35, has not yet committed to the Fire for the 2009 season though Chicago officials expect him back for the final year of his three-year Designated Player contract. In two seasons, he's played 41 games, scored 11 goals, and registered 18 assists in MLS.

Chicago will play in the SuperLiga next season, and the prospects of him playing against Mexican teams in competitive matches is a powerful incentive for MLS to keep him. A few teams have discussed the feasibility of taking him on loan from MLS in January to play Interliga games.

This is his first stint with Santos. Before signing with the Fire, he played for Necaxa, Club America and Veracruz and spent two seasons in Spain with Real Valladolid. At least a few teams in Mexico are reportedly interested in acquiring him.

He retired from international soccer this year after making his 100th appearance for Mexico in a 3-0 win against Jamaica Sept. 6 in a World Cup qualifier.

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