Mexico's Blanco one for the ages

Former Chicago Fire midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco is a soccer anomaly of sorts. The 37-year-old can't play for long stretches. He's slowed down tremendously. And he is the last person you would ask to wholeheartedly play on both sides of the ball.

But despite Blanco's shortcomings, the man can still finish. And on Thursday, Blanco did what no other Mexican soccer player has done: score in three different World Cups.

Blanco's 79th-minute penalty kick capped off a 2-0 Mexico victory over France on Thursday in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Group A play. Mexico (1-0-1) simply needs a draw against Uruguay to assure itself of a spot in the next round.

Blanco has seen different generations of players step into the fold. But with age, there are three things that have not slowed down Blanco -- his superb finishing ability, his creativeness and his vision. As long as he has all three, does it matter if Blanco lags behind in certain sequences?

Javier Hernandez put El Tri on the board in the 64th minute. Then less than 15 minutes later, France's Eric Adibal fouled Mexico's Pablo Barrera in the box, setting up Blanco in the 79th minute. Blanco calmly placed the penalty kick into the left side netting. France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris did everything he possibly could do, diving to his right and lunging toward the low projection of the ball. But Blanco struck it perfectly, like a dart player finding the exact center of the bulls-eye.

A little to Blanco's left, the ball would have hit the woodwork. A little to the right, Lloris probably could have deflected enough of the ball with his gloves to push the strike away to the side.

Blanco netted his 39th international goal, and has tallied a goal in the 1998, 2002 and 2010 World Cups.

Last week, Clint Dempsey became just the second American to score in two World Cups -- the other being Fire target forward and Arlington Heights, Ill., native Brian McBride. Blanco's accomplishment obviously exceeds McBride's and Dempsey's feats, and who knows what would have happened in the 2006 World Cup if Blanco was on board.

Blanco feuded with former Mexican manager Ricardo La Volpe and he was left off Mexico's roster for the '06 Cup in Germany. The tone is much different under current manager Javier Aguirre, who wanted Blanco after an eight-year absence from the Cup.

Blanco remains a force as this year's oldest player in Cup competition. He is the third-oldest player to score at the Cup, behind Cameroon's Roger Milla and Sweden's Gunnar Gren.

U.S. needs smart game against Slovenia: The United States' 1-1 draw against England was an adequate result from the Americans' standpoint. But with Slovenia on the docket, the U.S. is thinking ‘win’ all the way. The Americans do not want to create a must-win situation to wrap up Group C play against Algeria, so they are approaching Friday's match (8:30 a.m. CT, ESPN) with balanced aggressiveness.

"It's going to be where you have to play a smart game, but get at them without opening ourselves up to be hit on the counter attack," former Fire defender Carlos Bocanegra said to ESPN.

It is no secret that stout defense has been the trademark of Slovenia, which defeated Algeria 1-0 in group play and has won seven of its last eight matches.

"They're very well organized, and tactically I think they're very smart," former Fire and current U.S. head coach Bob Bradley said at Thursday's press conference. "Their defensive record in qualification was outstanding. They have good balance in the team, good mobility and some dangerous players."