Gringo Report: Cunningham signs deal in Guatemala

Jeff Cunningham has signed with Guatemala's Comunicaciones.

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of CSD Comunicaciones

Photo courtesy of CSD Comunicaciones

GUADALAJARA, Mexico – The all-time leading scorer in MLS history is headed south. Jeff Cunningham has joined Guatemala City-based outfit CSD Comunicaciones on a one-year contract, MLSsoccer.com has confirmed.

The two-time MLS Golden Boot winner – who was out of contract after Columbus declined his 2012 option – could make his debut as early as Wednesday, when Comunicaciones play a Guatemalan league match against Municipal.

On Thursday, the 35-year-old Cunningham will travel with his new team to Los Angeles for an exhibition match, also against Municipal, on Saturday at the Home Depot Center.

“I'm happy to join Comunicaciones because I know it is a great team,” the former US international told Guatemala’s La Prensa Libre. “My goal is to give as much as possible.”

Cunningham’s signing has caused quite a stir down in Guatemala, according to Comunicaciones general manager Roberto Alfaro.

“There is a lot of expectation because Jeff is by far the best player to come to Guatemala in almost 10 years,” Alfaro told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Monday. “When he arrived, he was overwhelmed by the media presence at the airport. He was kind enough to talk to each and every one of them. It took him almost an hour-and-a-half to do the interviews.”

The former Columbus, Toronto, Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas man knows basic Spanish and will be going to classes to improve his fluency, adds Alfaro. He’ll join Michael Umaña as another former MLSer to join Comunicaciones this offseason – the Costa Rican defender signed from Chivas USA earlier this month.

This marks the Jamaican-born Cunningham’s first foray outside of Major League Soccer since first joining the Crew in 1998. Prior to the 2011 season, the forward trained with IK Start of Norway before agreeing to terms with Columbus, who selected him in the 2010 Re-Entry Draft.

Comunicaciones have won two of the last three championships in Guatemala and are considered one of the country’s “big two” clubs, alongside Municipal. They are also regular participants in continental competition. Los Cremas most recently competed in the group stage of the current edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, where they were beaten out to the knockout rounds by Monterrey and Seattle.

Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. He can be reached via tom.marshall.mex@gmail.com.