Welcome back to the Analyst’s Corner. This is where I editorialize and analyze the Chicago Fire, and try to figure out the game we all love.
Life without Gimenez
The worst possible outcome came to pass for the Chicago Fire came to pass against the Philadelphia Union last weekend, and no it was not the 4-1 scoreline. The Fire faces another long-term injury proposition, this time in central midfield. Gaston Gimenez was stretched off midway through the second half after what looked like a non-contact hamstring injury. This leaves the fire in an awkward spot. Their obvious replacement, Mauricio Pineda, is currently lending his flexible services to the back line as an emergency center-back due to the injuries there. This means the coaching staff would have to be more creative in their solution. There is a possibility of Carlos Teran being back as soon as this week against NYCFC. Earlier today, Ezra said as much in his media availability. I’d still have something in my back pocket, just in case.
The First is the diamond 4-4-2 I wrote about a few weeks ago. Taking cues from the way Philly played, the Fire could just have Fede Navarrow be a true 6 and not replace Gaston at all. Instead, they could play two strikers, taking the pressure off of both of them to score goals, and end up with more goals because of it.
The other thing they could do would be to play 3 at the back, an idea first broached by my cohost RJ on the last Hot Cast. The lineup would go something like Bornstein, Czichos, and Sekulic at the back, freeing up Pineda to fulfill his role in the double pivot and putting on an extra striker. The problem with this is that it would put undue pressure on the wingbacks to defend. And if there’s one thing I don’t want, it’s Chris Mueller and Jairo Torres defending more than they have to.
Jairo or Brian
It’s been two weeks since Jairo Torres was placed in the starting XI over Brian Gutierrez, to some confusion and consternation from the fanbase. And in that two weeks, he’s had an assist and is trending upward in his play. But the question is is that enough and why was the move made in the first place?
On a base level, in the 2022 season, Jairo Torres has a higher ceiling than Brian Gutierrez does. That’s not to say that Guti is bad, far from it. But as of now, we know that Jairo Torres is a more developed player than Guti is. We’ve seen what he can do in Liga MX, and the idea is to have him quickly reach that level for the Fire. This means he has to develop familiarity with the rest of the starting XI. And the best way for him to do that is to get as many minutes as possible with Shaqiri, Mueller, and the rest of the first-choice XI.
On the other hand, Brian Gutierrez was (and still is) having the best season of his career. He was often the most important player on the pitch for the Fire. Benefiting from all the attention being paid to Mueller and Shaqiri, he was able to find spaces that opened up and deliver obscene passes to forwards that other teams couldn't deal with, That flick he made to Jhon Duran will live in my dreams for a long time.
So what’s the right call to make going forward? Honestly, I don’t think there’s a right answer here. Guti is still a teenager despite his high level of performance, and can still have the peaks and valleys that come with being a raw talent. Meanwhile, Jairo Torres is further along the development path, but because of his injury, is a bit behind on synergy with his teammates. I think regardless of who plays, the Fire are in a good spot. They have two quality players on the right wing, and if Jairo can continue to get more comfortable and Gutierrez continues to improve, we may get to the point where they can start one over the other based on opponent. And that’s a good problem to have.