With high expectations, Fire welcome Nicolas Gaitan

SHARE With high expectations, Fire welcome Nicolas Gaitan

The Fire welcomed Nicolas Gaitan on Thursday. | Courtesy of Chicago Fire Soccer Club

The Fire aren’t entirely sure when midfielder Nicolas Gaitan will make his debut. They are quite sure about what they’re expecting when he gets up to speed.

‘‘Although all the roles within a team are important, some are more key,’’ Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez said at a news conference Thursday. ‘‘We believe that the style of football we wish to share, one that is a winning style and one that will be enjoyed by our fans, our team needs that dynamic, creative, offensive midfielder. In Nico Gaitan, we believe we’ve acquired such a player.’’

Gaitan, 31, was acquired March 14 and practiced with the Fire (0-2-1) for the first time Thursday. In introducing him to the media, Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic were effusive in their praise of a player who’s expected to fill a hole that has plagued the Fire for years.

‘‘We’ve been looking for a long time for a player with his qualities and his profile who can play the role of the creative, attacking player, a game-changer,’’ Paunovic said. ‘‘That void we’ve had since [I’ve been] here. We were looking for somebody to fill it. Now that he’s here, I think there’s nothing to change [tactically]. We just have to fill that gap, that spot that we were missing.’’


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By the time of the Fire’s game Saturday against the Red Bulls at SeatGeek Stadium, Gaitan will have trained with them twice. Whether that’s enough time to get him ready to play after four months without game action remains to be seen, but the Fire said they won’t rush Gaitan to the field.

Gaitan said he might not be ready to play 90 minutes, but he did practice with a team in China and had been working with a trainer in his native Argentina before joining the Fire.

‘‘We are eager to have him on the field as soon as possible, but we don’t want to [take] some steps or be anxious about it and make the wrong decision,’’ Paunovic said.

Gaitan, meanwhile, made it clear he knows why the Fire decided to bring him to Chicago. He didn’t seem flustered by the high expectations Paunovic and Rodriguez have for him, which makes sense, considering his résumé includes stops with Benfica (Portugal) and Atletico Madrid (Spain).

‘‘I’ve been in soccer for many years; they know what I bring to the table,’’ Gaitan said through a translator. ‘‘They certainly have followed me and my trajectory for several years. They know what I can do. That’s why they brought me here. I don’t feel pressure. I do feel flattered for the kind words that they’ve said here today.’’

Gaitan credited conversations with Paunovic for getting him to the Fire. He said he thinks he and Paunovic see the game the same way.

‘‘That gives me a sense of calm, and it makes me feel good about being here,’’ Gaitan said.

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