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Analyst’s Corner: Expectations and Reality

MLS: D.C. United at Chicago Fire Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Analyst’s Corner, where we break down the how’s and why’s of the Chicago Fire, and sometimes answer questions.

Is Gaston Good?

Let’s talk about Gaston Gimenez. I keep getting messages on Twitter and in other places about how he’s a bust, and how he’s bad and he shouldn’t be making as much as he is. We’re going to save the financial worth until the end of this section because I want to first focus on the question of whether or not he’s good compared to his peers.

So I went to Football Reference and compared his numbers to the two number 8’s at the top of the table in Ilie Sanchez for LAFC and Alfredo Morales in NYCFC, plus the player he directly replaced, Dax McCarty, and what I found was rather interesting. Gaston’s numbers are comparable to the players in the top teams. He has the most assists of the four players and the highest xGoals as well. (The only player with an actual goal is Sanchez) AS for passing numbers, Gaston is the worst of the four, but they’re all within a percentage point, except for Moralis, who has an 89% completion percentage while the other three are in the 83-84% range.

Interestingly, in the places where we expect Gaston to struggle in the metrics, on defense, he doesn’t. He leads all four players in total tackles and tackles won. He’s also first in successful pressures, blocked shots, and tackles plus interceptions. His possession metrics are good too. He leads in successful dribbles, a full 10 dribbles ahead of the next highest in Morales, and his success rate is a full 18 points higher than the next highest player (also Morales).

Based on the numbers, Gaston Gimenez is a good soccer player and compares well to the players in his position on better teams. However, as to the financial question, that’s where the sticky wicket is. Gaston Gimenez is on a designated player contract in a position where you don’t have to spend a lot of money to be good. The DP salary could be more efficiently spent elsewhere. Gimenez is a good player, one of the best statistically at his position, but based on the market, overpaid for an 8 in MLS.

Guti Game

Meanwhile, Brian Gutierrez has come of age quickly. He had his breakout performance against DC last week. He was involved in every dangerous attack the Fire had and had two of their five shots on goal. He also looked to have great chemistry with the players around him. His connections with Kacper Przybylko and Chris Mueller looked on point, and most of the things he did had positive outcomes.

The biggest things he has to work on are his fitness and finishing. His inability to play a full 90 minutes is going to hurt this team incrementally over the rest of the season. The more time one of your best creative options is not on the field, the fewer goal-scoring opportunities there will be. The only shot on goal from the Fire that came after he came off the field was the goal they scored. He has to be able to go for full games without being subbed off.

He also needs to work on putting away his chances, His two shots were both well worked beforehand and were both effectively 1v1’s with the goalkeeper, and both shots went right at him. He has to get better if he wants to elevate to elite status, something he is well capable of doing, given his age and talent level. I’m confident it will come, but it has to happen sooner rather than later.