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Ardido and the testing of loyalty

09 December 2010

Forget Fulhamerica. Are the Cottagers turning into Fulhamexico?

In our season preview, my hope was that this campaign for Fulham would be the “calm after the storm,” a welcome 10 months of ennui after four years of bipolar emotions. There was no way to match the thrill of 2008-09’s league overachievement or last season’s stunning Europa League run, and there was no interest in repeating the high-wire relegation escapes of the two seasons before that.

The series of injuries to key spots may have forced Fulham into much more of a relegation hassle than planned. That’s never fun, but OK, as a fan you gut through it and support your club. With this week’s developments, though, things are starting to get a lot more complicated than this USMNT fan expected.

For a number of years, the Cottagers were (somewhat derisively) dubbed “Fulhamerica” for the club’s repeated dips into the States’ talent pool. Brian McBride’s and Carlos Bocanegra’s tenures at the club were part of the early hook that lured me in, Clint Dempsey carries the current torch as one of the side’s best players and even the ancient Kasey Keller had a couple of big moments down the stretch in 2008, when every point and every goal mattered. It was an easy root, with my club and country interests squarely aligned. But now that Fulham is working out Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa on the heels of its purchase of left back Carlos Salcido earlier this fall, I’m faced with the same types of club vs. country conflict that many of the world’s largest clubs subject their fans to. I’ll tell you … it’s a bit odd.

Thankfully, both Salcido and Ochoa (if he arrives) are among the least petulant of the Mexican internationals. Despite their obvious talents, I would have had a harder time supporting a Rafa Marquez or a Cuat Blanco or (especially) an Oswaldo “Dirty” Sanchez after their repeated bouts of asinine behavior against the U.S., all in the name of “ardido.” Plus Fulham may need another keeper and it was a joke that Ochoa, 25, got stuck playing behind Conejo Perez for El Tri this past summer. He still can be erratic, but has plenty of skill and athleticism and isn’t 5-foot-3.

I’m sure I’d get used this latest instance of modern football and the comingling of players from hated rivals, should it come off. If star players can go from Arsenal to Tottenham or Manchester United to City in a blink of an eye, what’s a little CONCACAF love between friends of mid-table Prem clubs? That said, I won’t deny that I’ll chuckle a little inside the first time a Salcido/Ochoa Fulham XI loses 2-0. 🙂

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