When they played together last season, Alvaro Medran and Gaston Gimenez formed one of the top midfield pairings in Major League Soccer. Gimenez was deployed in more of a defensive role, while Medran was effective all over the field.
The combination of a designated player (Gimenez) and someone with a Real Madrid pedigree (Medran) gave the Fire something they didn’t have much of in 2020: a top-tier entity on the field.
“I think with Alvaro, we’ve built a really good relationship as far as football,” Gimenez said through a translator. “I think it’s because we understand the game the same way. We’re watching it, understanding the same game. It didn’t take us very long to get to know each other and be able to work together on the field.
“We really do understand the game in the same fashion. So that helped us last year be able to work off of each other and build that relationship on the field, as well as off the field we have a very good relationship.”
Coach Raphael Wicky echoed that sentiment.
“They’re two really, really good players,” Wicky said. “I think they understood each other pretty quickly on the field. They understood how to work together as a double pivot on the field. They have amazing quality.”
This year, the Fire think Medran and Gimenez could be even better individually and as a duo.
Gimenez didn’t train with the Fire until March 6, 2020, making his debut the next day before the season was paused the following week because of the pandemic. He also missed time to play with Paraguay’s national team, further interrupting his flow in Chicago.
Medran played every game in 2020 after not appearing in a competitive match since the spring of 2019 with Spanish side Rayo Vallecano. Despite the layoff, Medran was arguably the Fire’s best and most consistent performer.
“Last year, I was able to play all of the games, which was really important for me,” Medran said through a translator. “This year, that’s another goal, to play every game, not get injured and just get myself on the board with more goals and more assists.”
Though Gimenez should spend time with Paraguay again this season, the layoffs that were sprinkled through the 2020 season shouldn’t be an issue in 2021. And that’s why Wicky thinks “they can do much better, and I expect them to do much better.”
“Hopefully, the players can really find a rhythm from the beginning and do even better because they have really, really good quality,” Wicky said. “But especially for those players, it is a question of rhythm. They are players who need minutes, they are players who need the real preseason, not always these big breaks like we had last year. Unfortunately, every team had them last year. Hopefully, this season will be a normal season with hopefully not all these breaks, then those players can become even stronger.”