Jhon Duran explains decision to join Fire

Listed in the Guardian’s Next Generation 2020 as one of the 60 best young talents in world soccer, Duran was reportedly drawing interest from European teams but chose to play in MLS with the Fire.

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Jhon Duran was one of the most sought-after prospects in the world before signing with the Fire.

Courtesy of the Fire

Forward Jhon Duran had options.

In October 2020, Duran was listed in The Guardian’s Next Generation 2020 as one of the 60 best young talents in world soccer. Before he signed with the Fire on Jan. 11, 2021, Duran reportedly was getting attention from European clubs because of his potential.

But Duran picked the Fire, staying with Colombian club Envigado through the 2021 season before coming to Chicago after turning 18. The signing was arguably the Fire’s most exciting acquisition since they coaxed legendary midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger to Chicago in 2017.

One question about Duran signing with MLS and the Fire instead of a European club was obvious: Why?

“I had heard there was other interest and other offers, but a bird in hand is better than a hundred birds in the air,” Duran told the Sun-Times last week through a translator. “I’ve come, I like the club. The club is really good for me. I like the base here. I like the way things are run, and even in the few days that I’ve been here I’ve learned a lot about the team and the club and I’m really liking it so far.

“It’s a city and a league that really help you grow as a player. They kind of buff you a little bit so you come out shining and as a player that is really helpful so I can come in here and grow as a person, grow as a player, do well and then from here make that leap to Europe.”

That any promising youngster would say that is no surprise. If he’s the player the Fire and The Guardian think he is, European teams will pursue Duran, and it will only be a matter of time before he goes across the pond.

Obviously, Duran’s been well-known in soccer circles. Getting named to a significant annual list will only add to that, but it also has served as motivation.

“It felt really good to be named one of those Next Generation [players] by The Guardian,” Duran said. “What it did for me was make me want to work harder. I had to put in more effort because it did increase the pressure a little bit. People get to know who you are, you’re recognized a little bit more, and so what that means is that you have to work harder in order to be up for the challenges that are coming.”

Considering his pedigree and growth in 2021 with Envigado (seven goals, three assists), Duran’s usage will be interesting to follow this season. With the recent signing of Kacper Przybylko, Duran likely won’t be relied upon to lead the Fire attack, though coach Ezra Hendrickson mentioned his versatility and didn’t dismiss starting him for the Feb. 26 opener at Inter Miami.

“That versatility that he brings and that dynamic that he brings, the ability to take guys on [one on one] and that finishing ability is something that we are going to look to see from him this year,” Hendrickson said.

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