After more than a month of waiting through visa delays and a Covid quarantine, Federico Navarro is finally training with his new Chicago Fire teammates.
His early impression? He said he was excited, but not surprised, about the quality of play compared to his old club, CA Talleres in Argentina.
“It’s another level from what I was used to,” Navarro said via a translator. “It makes me really happy, because it’s another level, and that’s what I was expecting.”
Raphael Wicky said Navarro, who is 21, took part in a 25 minute scrimmage on Wednesday, and he said it confirmed what he already knew—Navarro fits a different profile than any other midfielder on the Fire’s roster.
“Federico is a real defensive midfielder,” Wicky said. “I wouldn’t call him a No. 6, I would call him a defensive midfielder. We call these guys a ball winner, and I was, for a big part of my career a player like that, we call these guys a water carrier. Their role is to recover balls, to do more of the dirty work.
“He’s a ball winner, he covers a lot of ground. He’s a good footballer on top of that, but he will probably not be the guy who is always playing the last pass, the decisive pass.”
Navarro, who was described by Argentine media as having “three lungs” for how much ground he’s able to cover, should allow his fellow midfielders like Gastón Giménez and Álvaro Medrán to push higher up the pitch.
“I think what I bring is a bit of balance and equilibrium, and I can cover a lot of spaces,” Navarro said.
Wicky said if all goes as planned, Navarro will be on the roster for the Fire’s match this Saturday in Kansas against Sporting KC. If he does make his debut, Navarro will become the first Fire player to wear No. 31 since Bastian Schweinsteiger retired in 2019.
“It really is a great honor,” Navarro said. “He’s a player who won everything, and he’s a player who one aspires to be like. But the truth is I chose that number because that’s the shirt number I used when I made my debut.”
Navarro, who is under contract through the 2025 season, will occupy a U-22 Initiative slot.
“I couldn’t have made a better next step,” Navarro said. “As a player, you’re always looking to grow and to get better, and that’s what I’m looking to do.”