It remains to be seen how good the Fire will be, but sporting director Georg Heitz has done a lot for an executive hired Dec. 20.
On Monday, Heitz and the Fire made the last big addition to their roster.
By signing holding midfielder Gaston Gimenez to a designated player contract, the Fire made their final sizable move of the offseason. Gimenez, under contract through the 2021 season with a 2022 team option, will occupy the third designated player slot, following the earlier signings of striker Robert Beric and attacker Ignacio Aliseda.
Gimenez, 28, has made more than 225 appearances in Argentina and last played for Velez Sarsfield. Though it’s not exactly like-for-like, Gimenez figures to play a similar defensive-midfield role to what Dax McCarty filled before his departure to Nashville SC.
“We are thrilled to acquire a player with the quality of Gastón Giménez,” Fire coach Raphael Wicky said in a news release. “Gastón has a great left foot and is very gifted in the technical and physical aspects of the game. In addition, his humility and desire to always give his best for the team will fit in very well with the culture that we are establishing here at the Fire. I am looking forward to welcoming him to Chicago and having him be a leader on our team.”
For Heitz and the Fire, Gimenez caps a whirlwind offseason less than a week before Sunday’s opener at MLS Cup champion Seattle.
It’s been well-documented how deliberate Joe Mansueto and the Fire were to start the offseason, needlessly adding an extra degree of difficulty. Veljko Paunovic was fired in November and Nelson Rodriguez went business-only in December, leaving Heitz with a full list of chores after his late arrival. He was tasked with overhauling a roster that, according to some metrics, should’ve been near the top of MLS but missed the playoffs and lost many of its stalwarts.
When Heitz was hired, the Fire had 17 players, no designated players, and were still without a coach. Now the roster is effectively set, the Fire have three designated players, and Wicky was officially hired Dec. 27.
Of course, what matters is how well the team plays. None of the designated players are big names, while Wicky’s head-coaching resume is open to questions. And if the 2020 season doesn’t work out, the Fire’s slow pace of change at the end of 2019 will be viewed as a culprit.
But when he was hired, Heitz wasn’t prepared to use his late arrival as a crutch.
“I have one principle: no excuses, no alibis,” Heitz told the Sun-Times in December. “We’re all professionals. We are paid to make the right decisions. I don’t think too much about facts we cannot change. It is clear that we want to reach the playoffs next season, and from then on, anything is possible. We will improve in the upcoming months. Be sure we will improve.”
NOTE: MLS unveiled the team hashtags for 2020, and in a departure from the past, the Fire’s are #CFFC and #VamosFire. Previously, the hashtag was #cf97.