The Chicago Fire’s Gastón Giménez and Kaku of the New York Red Bulls will both miss Saturday’s match when the two teams face one another at Soldier Field (6:30 p.m. CT, WGN & ESPN+). When the match kicks off, both players will be in the final hours of an MLS mandated quarantine period, after taking part in international play for Paraguay.
Chicago’s Miguel Navarro, who left the same city at the same time as Giménez and Kaku, will be cleared to play. So what happened? The story seems fit for an episode of The Amazing Race:
On October 13, Giménez scored the game winning goal for Paraguay in the 85th minute of a World Cup qualifier against Venezuela. Navarro was on the opposing bench for Venezuela, but did not play in the match, which took place in Mérida, Venezuela, a small city situated in the mountains of the western part of the country. NYRB’s Kaku was in the squad for Paraguay, but like Navarro, he did not see action in the match.
The match ended a little after 7 p.m. CT, and after that, the three men all started their journey back to the United States, trying to start the quarantine clock early enough that they would be cleared to play in the Oct. 24 Fire-Red Bulls match. Because players are tested for COVID-19 every other day while on international duty, European leagues let their guys come straight back into club practice. But in an abundance of caution, MLS requires players to quarantine for nine days—or 216 hours—before they’re allowed to meet up with their club teammates, or take part in full team activities. The clock starts when a player’s flight lands in their local market.
Because travel was booked by their respective federations, Giménez and Kaku took a different series of flights than Navarro, even thought they left from the same place. Navarro had no issues, and made it back to Chicago with enough time to play Saturday. But Giménez and Kaku had an issue trying to board a plane in Colombia. Officials there had questions about the route the two players took to get to South America, and they were held up long enough that they missed their connection before everything was cleared up. When they finally got on the next flight, it was too late. There was no way the two players could get back in their markets for the 216 hour quarantine to expire in time for the match.
To add insult to injury, when they finally did land in the United States, Giménez and Kaku had to wait 90 minutes to clear immigration in Houston.
Giménez will be available to join his Fire teammates on Sunday, and will be able to play in the away match against Philadelphia Union on Oct. 28.